Virgil Thomson and the Press

Arthur Berger

in Reflections of an American Composer

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232518
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928213 | DOI:
Virgil Thomson and the Press

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The chapter illustrates the criticisms on music made by composer-critic Virgil Thomson. Thomson was hired to work for the Boston Evening Transcript. In America composer-critics are frowned upon, since it is assumed the critic's own tendency as a composer will create a bias. But almost all critics are biased one way or another without being composers. As a composer himself, Thomson was much concerned about the way composers were treated in the press. One thing that could advance a composer's reputation, he was convinced, was to have his or her picture in a metropolitan newspaper. He insisted that many notions which one ascribes to as individuals and which one trace as influences from one musical personality to another with the acumen of musicologists are in the air, and are properties accessible to all, in the public domain. The critic should make the distinction between servile imitation and legitimate indebtedness to a seminal composer whose endowment has determined the direction of music's evolution. Music as an art did not issue directly from nature (despite birdsong) in the way that painting and literature did; it exists by virtue of composers who have forged a tradition.

Keywords: musical personality; Virgil Thomson; Wadsworth Atheneum; seminal composer; composers; musicologists

Chapter.  4791 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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