Chapter

Power in the Land

Beth E. Levy

in Frontier Figures

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780520267763
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520952027 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520267763.003.0007
Power in the Land

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This chapter focuses on the music of composer Virgil Thomson, whose vocabulary for America's middle landscape was made up primarily of Protestant hymn tunes. In the mid-1930s, Thomson considered himself a pioneer in the incorporation of Americana into classical music. Later famous for his role as music critic for the New York Herald Tribune, he did some of his earlier “heralding” from the composer's pulpit. Thomson's Symphony on a Hymn Tune (1926–28) gave him a claim on Americana that he felt an increasing need to protect from urban interlopers. These themes are subtly interwoven in Thomson's first and most famous treatment of the plant family that he would later memorialize in the grasslands of his documentary film score The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and the orchestral movement Wheat Field at Noon (1948).

Keywords: Virgil Thomson; American music; composers; Protestant hymns

Chapter.  10531 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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