An Update on Virgil Thomson's "The State of Music" 

The Henry Russel Lecture at the University of Michigan
11 March 1997 

Few writers on music have been as colorful, as astute, or as infuriating as the composer-critic Virgil Thomson. Chief music critic for the late, lamented New York Herald-Tribune from 1940 through 1954, he used his bully-pulpit to increase public awareness of the newest American music and our best young native composers and performers. He also shamelessly used his critic's power to obtain performances of his own music and to settle scores in the music world in the most highhanded way possible. He certainly indulged in some of the "old-American" set of prejudices that can also be found in the writings of a close counterpart, H. L. Mencken. As with Mencken, however, the rereading of Thomson is usually worth the occasional wince. 


The End of the Mannerist Century 

by William Bolcom 

In March of 1996 the composer Donald Martino came under attack from the musicologist-critic Richard Taruskin, who in a New York Times article on twelve-tone composition excoriated Martino as one of its more perniciously academic practitioners.(1)  All this only occasioned by the reissue, mind you, of a Nonesuch record of around twenty years before; it's as if someone, now, decided to ambush a prizefighter walking by for winning a controversial match in 1965.