Discipline: Music Composition

Virgil Thomson

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: New York, Ny
MacDowell fellowships: 1963, 1966
Virgil Thomson (1896 – 1989) was an American composer and critic, and was awarded the Edward MacDOwell Medal in 1977. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music. He has been described as a modernist, a neoromantic, a neoclassicist, and 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." In 1925, in Paris, he cemented a relationship with painter Maurice Grosser (1903–1986), who was to become his life partner and frequent collaborator. Later he and Grosser lived at the Hotel Chelsea, where he presided over a largely gay salon that attracted many of the leading figures in music, art, and theatre, including Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, and many others. He also encouraged many younger composers and literary figures such as Ned Rorem, Lou Harrison, John Cage, Frank O'Hara, and Paul Bowles. 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 as a peer of Aaron Copland, and was also a music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune from 1940 to 1954.


New Jersey

Virgil Thomson worked in the New Jersey studio.

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