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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: May 2020

Chapter VIII - Life after College Music: An Investigation (1935-37)


The remarkable quality about this piece is its simplicity of means and the consequent clarity. (Elliot Forbes about The Peaceable Kingdom)

While College Music: An Investigation was wrapping up in February 1935, the Thompsons established residence in Peace Dale, Rhode Island about eight miles south of Saunderstown. From there, with a wife and four young children to support, he once again sought work, but no academic position ma¬terialized for the 1935 fall term. While doing so, he maintained his interest in attending concerts when he could, and on February 5th, along with a large group of composers, he was in New York City for a concert performance of Dimitri Shostakovich's new opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by the Cleve¬land Orchestra under Artur Rodzinski. He was once again in the city on the 18th to hear a League of Composers concert at the French Institute featuring Bartók's String Quartet no. 4 and Frederick Jacobi's String Quartet no. 2 (both Pro Arte Quartet), five songs by Nicholas Nabokoff sung by Anna Les¬kaya accompanied by Harrison Potter, and Roger Sessions's Piano Sonata no. 1 performed by John Duke. His informative review of the music was soon published in Modern Music. Ten days later he was in Washington D.C. to hear his own Second Symphony.

Over the next two years he wrote an occasional article, accepted an invitation to lecture again at Surette's Concord Summer School in 1935 as mentioned above, slowly resumed his compositional activity, was appointed secretary to the Harvard University Music Department Visiting Committee in 1934 and chair of a sub-committee on curriculum reform in 1935, had a growing number of performances of his compositions, lost his mother-in-law to illness in 1935 and his father shortly thereafter, and finally received an interim teaching position at Wellesley College for the 1936 spring semester. When pressures became acute in late 1935, he travelled to London and St. Anton, Austria to recover his equilibrium before starting the appointment at Wellesley. These years, immediately preceding his move west to the University of California at Berkeley in fall 1937, were the last before his academic career took flight, and he was never again unemployed until he retired.

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