Americans in Paris:The Lost Generation

Posted on August 28th, 2011 by

Americans in Paris:The Lost Generation

‘Miss Gertrude Stein as a Young Girl’ 25 11 17

Something new. Filmmaker Colin Still and I have made the first group of short films documenting solo violin works written by and for the ‘Lost Generation’ in Paris in the decades after WW1. Here’s a taste: Virgil Thomson’s ‘Miss Gertrude Stein as a Young Girl’

I will gradually gather on this page workshop recordings by the composers attached to the literary community in Paris in the 1920’s. It seems appropriate to record these at home. This was not music for the concert hall, but the dining room, the salon, the bookshop,the bar.

Virgil Thomson’s 6 Portraits was premiered at the Salle Majestic in Paris on the 14 November 1928, by Lucien Schwarz.

Virgil Thomson-Gertrude Stein as a Young Girl 14th October 1928 Paris (Workshop Recording, PSS August 28 London)

Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson-who collaborated on 'Four Saints in Three Acts' in 1928-the year that he wrote 'Gertude Stein as a Young Girl'


Virgil Thomson: “In later years I used to say that I lived in Paris because it reminded me of Kansas City. And Paris can present to anyone, of course, since it contains all possible elements, an image of his origins. In my case, I now learned, not only was Paris to be my new home town, but all France, so little did I feel alien there, was to be like another Missouri — a cosmopolitan crossroads, frank and friendly and actually not far from the same geographic size.” (Virgil Thomson 1966)

Gertrude Stein: “Their tradition kept them from changing and yet they naturally saw things as they were,and accepted life as it is, and mixed things up without any reason at the same time. Foreigners were not romantic to them, they were just facts, nothing was sentimental they were just there, and strangely enough it did not make them make the art and literature of the twentieth century but it made them be the inevitable background for it./And therefore France was so important in the period between 1900 and 1939, it was a period when there really was a serious effort made by humanity to be civilized, the world was round and there really were not left any unknown on it and so everybody decided to be civilized. England had the disadvantage of believing in progress, and progress has really nothing to do with civilization, but France could be civilized without having progress on her mind, she could believe in civilization in and for itself, and so she was the natural background for this period” (Gertrude Stein, Paris France, 1940).

George Antheil-Printemps for Olga Rudge (1924)

I have been a fan of Antheil’s since I read his Bad boy of Music. Here is his little known fragment for the virtuoso violinist and musicologist Olga Rudge, whose reputation was for too long eclipsed by her partner, Ezra Pound. Pound was a composer and poet, and his entrance into Parisian artistic life was as a result of Rudge performing his work at the Salle Gaveau. This little piece reminds me of my favourite of Pound’s poems:


She passed and left no quiver in the veins, who now

Moving among the trees, and clinging

in the air she severed,

Fanning the grass she walked on then, endures:

Grey olive leaves beneath a rain-cold sky.

Antheil climbing into the concert room above Shakespear & Co.