Cover image for The music of Vivian Fine
The music of Vivian Fine
Von Gunden, Heidi, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 187 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.F449 V66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A piano child prodigy, Vivian Fine (1913-2000) composed her first piece in 1926 at thirteen while studying harmony with Ruth Crawford. At age 16, her music was performed in Chicago, New York, and Germany. Unlike many prodigies, Fine's early brilliance persisted, and over the course of a 70-year career she became one of America's most highly regarded composers. Fine was a member of Aaron Copland's Young Composers Group and a participant at the first Yaddo Festival in 1932. Henry Cowell was an early supporter who published her scores in New Music. Although perhaps best known for her chamber music, Fine wrote in virtually every genre, including large-scale symphonic and choral works. Her earliest work is highly dissonant, followed by more tonal compositions during her nine years of study with Roger Sessions. After 1946 she returned to a freer mode of expression, which Wallingford Riegger described as "tempered atonality." Despite early recognition of her genius, Fine experienced obstacles as a female composer and often felt alone and isolated from the world of prominent musicians. Finally, at age fifty-six, she was appointed to the faculty at Bennington College. Her years there, surrounded by a faculty eager to perform her work, were some of the happiest and most productive of her life. In 1980 she was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1983 her Drama for Orchestra was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. Renowned musicologist Heidi Von Gunden's concise, lively biography of Fine's life includes an insightful analysis of dozens of musical compositions. Useful resources include a chronology, complete catalog of works, discography, and bibliography. Impeccably researched, The Music of Vivian Fine is essential reading for anyone interested in Fine's music, and a great resource for students of 20th Century American music.

Author Notes

Heidi Von Gunden holds a Ph.D in music from the University of California at San Diego. She is an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana

Reviews 1

Choice Review

One of the US's most respected living composers, Fine has long deserved the extended biographical study this informative book provides. Its many virtues center on Von Gunden's decision to link life and works in a single narrative. The author (Univ. of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana) introduces the reader to Fine's music in the context of her career as composer and a pianist. One cannot help admiring the determination of the young woman who, having dropped out of high school, traveled to New York alone, in her teens, driven by the desire to become a composer. And compose she did. Von Gunden offers analytic commentaries on Fine's music and solid, basic information in a clear, undaunting manner. The numerous musical examples are well chosen and very helpful, since many of Fine's works are available only from the firm run by her sister. The book is not without problems, however. The prose is bumpy and marred by small errors of fact and style (e.g., Carl Ruggles is renamed Charles, the College of William and Mary is relocated to Richmond, VA, virtuosic is consistently misspelled). These annoying flaws could make a reader wonder whether the story or analyses are also untrustworthy. That would be a mistake. Libraries should acquire this title for undergraduate and graduate readers. K. Pendle; University of Cincinnati

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
1. The Early Yearsp. 1
2. New York and the 1930sp. 15
3. The Changing Voicep. 39
4. The Maturing Voicep. 67
5. Expansionp. 85
6. Fulfillmentp. 111
Chronologyp. 151
Catalog of Compositionsp. 157
Discographyp. 173
Bibliographyp. 175
Indexp. 181
About the Authorp. 187