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(For further information see below)

Upcoming screenings: (For further information see below)

Ned Rorem: Word & Music

April 26, 2008, 5:15 PM

New York Premiere

Walter Reade Theater

Lincoln Center, New York

Presented by The Juilliard School of Music and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in conjunction with the New York premiere of the Rorem opera OUR TOWN

A panel discussion will follow with Ned Rorem and the filmmakers James Dowell and John Kolomvakis, moderated by Matthew Gurewitsch


For more information and tickets call:

(212) 496-3809 or go to



Ned Rorem , Nantucket,July 1995

photo James Dowell

Ned Rorem is the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and a diarist who has been described by Time magazine as "the leading American composer of Art Songs". His diaries chronicle the music and art worlds of Paris and New York from the late 1940's to the present. They are also important for their candor in relation to his sexuality and invariably display a sharp sense of observation and wit from a privileged position. As the subject of Ned Rorem: Word & Music he brings a compelling body of music and also a wide range of cultural experience to this endeavor which has been filmed from 1994 to the present.

We have been fortunate to have Mr. Rorem's complete cooperation while shooting the approximately fourteen hours of raw 16mm footage that comprise the most complete documentation of this author and composer. He has given us many hours of interviews, as well as access to his considerable archive of photographs and written material. We filmed Miss Julie, Rorem's opera based on the Strindberg play at the Manhattan School of Music. The Emerson String Quartet graciously allowed us to film them rehearsing Rorem's music at one of their members' apartment. We had an extensive collaboration with the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where we filmed an interpretation of Rorem's very short operas based on the Fables of La Fontaine, originated by Symbiosis Films and the School. Fanciful costumes were made that help create the animal characters acted out by dancers. The singers are revealed during the introduction at the Queen's College President's house in which Rorem explains the circumstances that lead to his composing the operas and how, in the end, received the blessing of the translator Marianne Moore. The story of "The Fox and the Grapes", "The Frogs and the Sun" and "The Bird Wounded by an Arrow" are all acted out by dancers.

We have filmed the distinguished guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin playing Rorem's music for him in an apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We have filmed Claire Bloom reading poetry at the 92nd Street Y in New York, while the music of Rorem's was being played by the pianist Brian Zeger. We have interviewed a number of Rorem's friends and colleagues. We spoke to Allen Ginsberg while he was crossing town in a car and interviewed the music critic Tim Page in his Washington townhouse. We interviewed the writer and composer Paul Bowles as well as the composer John Corigliano. We spoke with the writer Edmund White in his Paris apartment and interviewed the noted playwright Edward Albee in his Tribeca loft. While we were in Paris, we filmed the place where Rorem lived, the mansion of Marie Laure, the Vicomtesse de Noaille. She and her circle will figure prominently in our Paris section. We have extensive interviews with James Holmes, a musician and Rorem's life partner for twenty-five years. During production of our film, Holmes died of AIDS and that sense of loss is one of the themes of the film since, after our interviews with them, both Bowles and Ginsberg also passed away.

Ned Rorem is without question one of the most accomplished composers working today. His diaries offer an inside look at the life of an artist and a window into the artistic milieu of America and France.


Directors on set with Ned Rorem, Nantucket, August 1997

photo Scott Barnard





James Dowell (left) John Kolomvakis (right), co-directors/co-producers

Sleep in a Nest of Flames & Ned Rorem: Word & Music

photo: Dowell/Kolomvakis


JAMES DOWELL (co-director/co-producer) was born in Texas and has had a career as an artist in New York and Texas since finishing graduate school at the University of Iowa. He has made numerous experimental short films both in New York and Texas. Symbiosis Films was founded by him and John Kolomvakis in 1993 with the purpose of making documentary films about artists in different media. Sleep in a Nest of Flames is a view of the 20th-century art and literary worlds as seen through the eyes of the American Surrealist poet Charles Henri Ford and the recently completed Ned Rorem: Word and Music, is a portrait of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and diarist. (University of Iowa, MA, MFA; Southern Methodist University, BA)


JOHN KOLOMVAKIS (co-director/co-producer) came to New York from his home in Chania, Crete in 1966. After graduating from Pratt Institute with a Master's degree in Architecture, he has pursued a career in architecture and systems design. His ongoing interest in film has led to a body of short films that challenge traditional narrative with dream-like imagery. He has studied filmmaking at NYU and The New School. Symbiosis Films comes out of his many collaborations with James Dowell. Sleep in a Nest of Flames and Ned Rorem: Word and Music examine not only the lives of living artists artists through primary source material, but they also explore the cross-fertilization between various arts and generations. (Pratt Institute, Master of Architecture; City College of New York, BS, Bachelor of Architecture; New York University, Advanced Film Production Workshop)


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