Sunday, February 22, 2015

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 265: Virgil Thomson, Taste in Music (#265)

Virgil Thomson, "Taste in Music" (1945) from Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles 1940–1954:

Thomson was (I'm told by the LoA page) a composer and somewhat controversial music critic at the New York Herald Tribune.

This short (4-page) piece gives a taste of his writing style, which is heady--by which I mean, he sure does love to load up on clauses. There's a point to that, I think: it slows the reading down and makes one take time to absorb. The other way he does that is by some tiny differences that he draws attention to: the difference between a taste for and a taste in music; or how life need freedom of thought and responsibility of action (or something like that), but how intelligent criticism and consumption needs freedom of action and responsibility of thought.

For a dash of Thomson, try this, one of my favorite lines
You can always sell to the world of learning acquaintance with that which it does not know.
If that feels fussy--or fuzzy--to you, congrats! You've got some taste of Virgil Thomson. He says some interesting things about the difference between liking and admiration; and between professionals and laypeople. But... this seems of interest to people interested in the history of criticism, not to many other people.

(Also, I'll note that his comment about the "world of learning" is both true and false: people who are paid for knowing things (professors, computer programmers) may be very interested in knowing more things; but very often, they need to have some connection between the new knowledge and the old knowledge.)

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