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Virgil Thomson

Born: 1896

Died: 1989

Nationality: American

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Photo © William Glenesk


Virgil Thomson composed in almost every genre of music. Utilizing a musical style marked by sharp wit and overt playfulness, Thomson produced a highly original body of work rooted in American speech rhythms and hymnbook harmony. His music was most influenced by Satie's ideals of clarity, simplicity, irony, and humor. Among his most famous works are the operas Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All (both with texts by Gertrude Stein with whom he formed a legendary artistic collaboration), scores to "The Plow That Broke the Plains" and "The River" (films by Pare Lorentz), and "Louisiana Story" (film by Robert Flaherty). In addition to his compositions, he was the author of eight books, including an autobiography.

Included in his many honors and awards are the Pulitzer Prize, a Brandeis Award, the gold medal for music from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Book Circle Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Music Council Award, and 20 honorary doctorates.
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