William Bolcom is one of the most versatile contemporary American composers, writing chamber music, piano works, song cycles, concertos, music theatre, opera, and symphonies, displaying a mastery of many different compositional styles. Although not given to radical experimentation, he consciously avoids blindly following European styles, whether old or contemporary. He describes Charles Ives as his greatest influence, and in his operas and stage works he chooses to set pieces about American characters by American authors, and includes idioms such as ragtime and jazz in his works.  The Nine Bagatelles were Commissioned for the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.