Vivian Fine: A Bio-Bibliography

Vivian Fine: A Bio-Bibliography

Vivian Fine: A Bio-Bibliography

Vivian Fine: A Bio-Bibliography


Despite having composed 140 major works of music, all while pursuing an active and productive career in teaching, Vivian Fine (1913-2000) has not, until now, been the subject of a significant biography or bibliography. Regarded by many as the finest American female composer of the 20th century, Fine enjoyed many accomplishments, which ranged from seeing her works first performed when she was only 18 years old, and witnessing one of her ballets choreographed by Martha Graham, to the achievement of international renown. Author Judith Cody, who knew Fine personally, provides here a complete bibliography of her compositions, guides to locating published and recorded editions, and analyses of various aspects of the work of this most important figure in American music.

Interviews with Fine, combined with extensive research into secondary sources, allow Cody to give shape to a remarkable life, tracing the composer as she moved from child prodigy of Chicago to the center of the modern music and dance movements in New York City in the thirties, forties, and fifties. The result is both an exhaustive reference work and a vibrant portrait of an artist whose talents spanned decades, continents, and nearly every major creative development of the 20th century.


In 1988, Vivian Fine graciously invited me to spend about eight to ten hours a day within the privacy of her rural home in upstate New York; there I was able to research amongst her personal papers and files for much of the material facts presented in this volume. She had set up a diminutive desk for me to work on that was situated in an alcove between her small kitchen and the music and family rooms. Fine allowed me almost complete access to her music and life chronicles for almost two weeks of intensive and exhilarating research.

Fortunately for music history, Fine was an excellent collector of her own memorabilia. in numerous cardboard cartons she had gathered all of her concert programs, newspaper article clippings, correspondence, photographs, school report cards, and her original music scores. the material dated back to her beginnings in the world of music in the 1920s, which was also the beginning of American modern music and including her first score from June of 1927 (see JCii).

Day by day as I explored through the stacks of Fine’s early records, a clear window into the 20th century birth of American modern music began to emerge. For Fine was not a lone figure; she was an integral part, composer, confidant, and colleague to all the critical pioneers in America’s new music age. She acted alongside and with Henry Brant, Charles Ives, Roger Sessions, Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford, Aaron Copland, Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey, plus many other music and modern dance celebrities. She ranks today as the matriarch of American modern music.

Vivian and her husband, Benjamin, made me feel a bit like a houseguest in their comfortable family home. the house stood on a gentle hillock surrounded by lush lawn where Benjamin’s enthralling stone sculptures sat in a natural array among the grass and plants. Often, Vivian prepared lunch for the three of us, presenting a greens salad adorned with huge vivid tomatoes that Benjamin would bring in directly from his garden, then slice just before serving for ultimate freshness.

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