In the spring of 1938, the publisher William Morrow & Co. approached Virgil Thomson for a book on music and contemporary culture. It was a great idea, though perhaps not quite in the way that Morrow thought.

Objectively, it was a great idea because if anyone knew the subject, it was Thomson. He spent a lot of time in Paris, still a hive of creative activity, where he kept a flat on the quai Voltaire, and was a keen participant in Paris’s frothy musical life. When not in Paris, he patrolled the East Coast between Boston and New York trying to stir up interest in his opera Four Saints in Three Acts, his ballet (the unprepossessingly titled Filling Station), and other music. On top of that, he could write, and write he did with lively pieces on the French musical scene for the Boston Evening Transcript...


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