program notes by composition > M > Music from "Rent"

Music from Rent

Jonathan Larson/arr. Jay Bocook

Music from Rent Rent is a rock musical about a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City's East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. It was inspired by Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème , with the luscious splendor of Puccini's world replaced by the coarseness and noise of modern New York. The popular version of the show premiered in 1996 and won a Pulitzer prize and three Tony awards posthumously for the composer who did not live to see its success. Today’s selections include “Rent,” “Without You,” “Seasons of Love” and “Finale B.”

Jonathan Larson (1960–1996) was an American composer and playwright noted for exploring the social issues of multiculturalism, addiction, and homophobia. From an early age he played trumpet, tuba, sang in his school's choir and took piano lessons. His early musical influences were rock musicians such as Elton John, The Beatles, The Doors, The Who, and Billy Joel, as well as classic composers of musical theatre, especially Stephen Sondheim. For many years after graduating from Adelphia University with a degree in fine arts, Larson wrote and composed during the days and waited tables on the weekends.

Larson died unexpectedly the day before the first Off Broadway preview performance of Rent. His recent chest pains, dizziness and shortness of breath were incorrectly attributed to flu or stress. In hindsight, his subsequent fatal aortic dissection is thought to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome.