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Virgil Thomson


  Male      American      Musician

  Born : Nov 25, 1896  -
  Died : Sep 30, 1989


About Author

Virgil Thomson (November 25, 1896 – September 30, 1989) was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music. He has been described as a modernist, a neoclassicist, a composer of "an Olympian blend of humanity and detachment" whose "expressive voice was always carefully muted" until his late opera Lord Byron which, in contrast to all his previous work, exhibited an emotional content that rises to "moments of real passion", and a neoromantic.

Virgil Thomson was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He displayed an extraordinary intelligence at an early age.[citation needed] As a child, he befriended Alice Smith, great-granddaughter of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. After World War I, he entered Harvard University thanks to a loan from Dr. Fred M. Smith, the president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and father of Alice Smith. His tours of Europe with the Harvard Glee Club helped nurture his desire to return there. At Harvard, Thomson focused his studies on the piano work of Erik Satie. He studied in Paris on fellowship for a year, and after graduating, lived in Paris from 1925 to 1940. In Paris he forged relationships with such prominent cultural figures as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, Aaron Copland, Ezra Pound, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, Orson Welles, Jean Cocteau, and Gertrude Stein. He eventually studied with Nadia Boulanger and became a fixture of "Paris in the twenties." His most important friend from this period was Gertrude Stein, who was an artistic collaborator and mentor to him. Following the publication of his book The State of Music he established himself in New York City as a peer of Aaron Copland and was also a music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune from 1940 through 1954. His writings on music, and his reviews of performances in particular, are noted for their wit and their independent judgments.[who?] His definition of music was famously "that which musicians do," and his views on music are radical in their insistence on reducing the rarefied aesthetics of music to market activity. He even went so far as to claim that the style a piece was written in could be most effectively understood as a consequence of its income source...


Quotes by Virgil Thomson






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