Virgil Thomson (November 25, 1896 - September 30, 1989)
Born: 25th November, 1896
Died: 30th September, 1989
Nationality: American
Profession/Occupation: Composer
Region: Kansas City, Missouri, New York City, New York
Notable works: "The Plow That Broke the Plains"

Virgil Thomson Facts


Virgil Thomson, (born Nov. 25, 1896, Kansas City, Mo., U.S.--died Sept. 30, 1989, New York, N.Y.), American composer, conductor, and music critic whose forward-looking ideas stimulated new lines of thought among contemporary musicians.

Thomson studied at Harvard University and later in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, a noted teacher of musical composition. There he was influenced by early 20th-century French composers, especially the group known as Les Six, whose most prominent members were Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, and Francis Poulenc. Thomson wrote in a variety of styles, including Gregorian chant, variations on Baptist hymns, and neoclassicism, often combining traditional forms with contemporary techniques, marked by careful craftsmanship. The greatest influence on him was that of Erik Satie, and it found expression in clarity, simplicity, and humour.

His operas are among his best-known works; Four Saints in Three Acts (1928) and The Mother of Us All (1947), the latter based on the life of Susan B. Anthony, boast libretti by Thomson's close friend Gertrude Stein, an avant-garde American writer. A later opera was Lord Byron (1968), which combined and unified Thomson's various compositional styles. His instrumental music includes two symphonies, several symphonic poems, and concerti for cello and flute (composed 1950 and 1954, respectively).

Thomson composed songs, choral works, chamber music, piano pieces, and film music, including the scores for Pare Lorentz's pioneering documentaries The River (1936) and The Plow that Broke the Plains (1937) and for Robert Flaherty's Louisiana Story (the film score of which won a Pulitzer Prize for music in 1949). He was music critic for the New York Herald Tribune (1940-54) and published several collections of penetrating, perceptive critical articles. His autobiography, Virgil Thomson, was published in 1966. Among his other books are Music Revisited, 1940-54 (1967), American Music Since 1910 (1971), and Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson (1988).

Top 13 Virgil Thomson quotes

I said to my friends that if I was going to starve, I might as well starve where the food is good.
Let your mind alone, and see what happens.
You explain how it went, and as far as you can figure out how it got that way.
As far as
I don't care what other critics say, I only hope to be played.
I've never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.
I don't go around regretting things that don't happen.
I look at you and I write down what I hear.
I write
I don't have to worry No matter what they do to it, it works.
Musicians own music because music owns them.
In Paris, you learn wit, in London you learn to crush your social rivals, and in Florence you learn poise.
I never learned to verbalize an abstract musical concept. No thank you. The whole point of being a serious musician is to avoid verbalization whenever you can.
Thank you
Reviewing music or reviewing anything is a writing job. It's nice if you are experienced in the field you are writing about, but writing is what you are doing.
Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.

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