The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center
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Finkelstein, Sidney Walter, 1909-1974

Sidney Finkelstein Papers

11 boxes 5.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 128

Noted critic of music, literature, and the arts, as well as a writer and an active member of the Communist Party U.S.A. Includes letters to and from Mr. Finkelstein; original manuscripts of reviews, articles, essays, and books; legal documents, educational, military, and personal records, financial papers, contracts, photographs, and lecture and course notes.

Biographical Note

Sidney Finkelstein, born in Brooklyn, New York on July 4, 1909, received his Bachelor’s degree from City College in New York in 1929 and his A.M. from Columbia University in 1932 before he became a renowned critic of music, literature, and the arts. In 1955, he earned a second master’s degree from New York University. During the 1930s he served as a book reviewer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and worked for the United Postal Service. In the 1940s he joined the music staff of the Herald Tribune and also served as a music reviewer for several other publications including New Masses, Masses, and Mainstream. Finkelstein became active in the Communist Party U.S.A. (CPUSA) where he served as the party’s leading musical and cultural theoretician. Finkelstein applied his interpretation of Socialist Realism in several books on arts and culture, the most famous being Jazz, a People’s Music (1948). Between 1951 and 1973 he served on the staff of Vanguard Records, a New York based record label that specialized in jazz and classical recordings. In 1957 he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his Communist party affiliation. Finkelstein died in Brooklyn, New York on January 14, 1974.

1909 Born July 4, Brooklyn, NY
1929 B.A., City College
1930s Book reviewer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
1932 A.M., Columbia University
1940s Music staff, The Herald Tribune; also music
reviewer, New Masses, Masses and Mainstream, and other
1951-1973 Staff, Vanguard Records
1955 M.A., New York University
1957 Called to testify before House Un-American
Activities Committee
1974 Died, January 14, Brooklyn, NY; survived by two
Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Sidney Finkelstein Papers (1914-1974) are organized
into 3 series: Biographical (1914-1969), Correspondence
(1934-1974), and Writings (1949-1973, n.d.). Biographical
materials include legal documents, educational, military, and
personal records, financial papers and contracts,
photographs, and lecture and course notes. Correspondence
includes letters both to and from Mr. Finkelstein and
consists primarily of informal discussions of his works and
the writings of others on related topics. Finkelstein’s
writings constitute the bulk of the collection and include
original manuscripts of reviews, articles, essays and books
he wrote during his career. Finkelstein’s writings cover a
broad array of topics and include discussions of jazz,
classical music, music criticism, aesthetics, literary
criticism, profiles of the work of individual artists, and
Socialist Realism and its relevance and application to
cultural studies.

Partial List of Correspondents
1946 Axelrod, Eric
1970 Cameron, Angus–of Knopf
1965 Capouya, Emile
1955 Cazden, Norman
1964 Cohen, Robert Sonné–physicist
1955, 1956 Downes, Olin–critic
1964 Gelbin, Gertrude–editor, Seven Seas
n.d. Hille, Waldemar
1956, 1965 Kent, Rockwell and Sally
1948 Lask, Tom–New York Times Book Review
1965, 1966 Lawson, John Howard
1970 Lowenfels, Walter
1964 Lumer, Hyman–editor, Political Affairs
1969 Markin, Ann
1966 Richmond, Al
1972 Russell, Ross
1966 Selsam, Millicent and Howard
1971 Schneerson, Grigon
1947 Siegmeister, Eliew–composer
1948 Smith, Harrison–Saturday Review
1953 Tamura, Toshio
1948 Thomson, Virgil–composer
1959 Veiaus, Abraham–Syracuse Univ.
1966 _______, John

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Sidney Finkelstein Papers (MS 128). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Acquired from: Maynard Solomon, 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Linda Seidman and David Goldberg, 1986, 2001.

Additional Information

Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon


Books Written by Finkelstein
1947.Art and Society. New York, International Publishers.
1948.Jazz, a People’s Music. New York, Citadel Press.
1952.How Music Expresses Ideas. New York, International Publishers.
1954.Realism and Art. New York, International Publishers.
1960.Composer and Nation: the folk heritage of music. New York, International Publishers.
1965.Existentialism and Alienation in American
. New York, International Publishers.
1968.The Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan.
1969.The Young Picasso.
1970.How Music Expresses Ideas , Revised and Enlarged edition.
1973.Who Needs Shakespeare?. New York, International Publishers.

Contents List
Series 1: Biographical
Legal documents and other personal records
Box 1:1
Education, records of
Box 1:2
Military records
Box 1:3
Publishing contracts and related materials
Box 1:4
Box 1:5
Course outline: Philosophy of
Box 1:6
Lecture notes and course outline
Box 1:7

Series 2: Correspondence

See attached partial list of correspondents

Letters from SF
Box 1:8
Letters to SF
Box 1:9
Letters to SF
Box 1:10
Letters to SF
Box 1:11

Series 3: Writings
Student paper by SF: The Imagery of
Picasso’s Blue Period
Box 1:12
Student paper by SF: The Philosophy of Art
of Frank Lloyd Wright
Box 1:13
Masters thesis: Picasso
Box 1:14
Box 1:15
Melville/Pierre notes
Box 1:16
Book reviews by SF
Box 1:17-24
(Combined with folder 16)
Box 1:25
Is Jazz a National Expression or an
International Folk Music?
Box 1:26
On jazz (fragment)
Box 1:27
On American music
Box 1:28
On opera
Box 1:29
Music and Music Criticism: A New
Box 2:30
Myths and Realities of the Arts
c. 1949
Box 2:31-33
Psychoanalysis and the Arts
Box 2:34
On realism, especially Charles White
Box 2:35
On Charles White’s paintings
Box 2:36
Realism in Art, review of
c. 1954
Box 2:37
Realism in Art, article about & SF
Box 2:38
On Arnold Hauser’s “The Social History of
Art” (fragment)
Box 2:39
Dialectical Materialism and the
Box 2:40
On John Dewey’s “Art as
Box 2:41
On Tagore’s play “The King of the Dark
Chamber” (fragment)
Box 2:42
On two articles regarding young
Box 2:43
The Art and Science of C.P. Snow
c. 1961
Box 2:44
Composer and Nation, letters re: review of
Box 2:45
Dialectics of Art/Form and
Box 3-5:46-71
Notes on Greece/Spain: High Renaissance
architecture, Spanish Colonial architecture, Romanesque
Box 6:72-73
On Henry James’ “The Sacred Fount”
Box 6:74
James: Introduction to Princess
Box 6:75
Dialectical materialism & Art/ What Is
Box 7:76-84
The Literary Influence of Existentialism/
The Literature of Alienation
Box 8-10:85-93
Media & the Arts: The Sense and Nonsense
of McLuhan
Box 8-10:94-95
McLuhan Book – published
Box 8-10:96
On Beauty and Truth
Box 8-10:97
How Music expresses Ideas
Box 11:98
Who Needs Shakespeare?
Box 11:99-100

Gift of Maynard Solomon, 1986


Art criticism--United States--History--20th centuryCommunism--United States--HistoryCommunist Party of the United States of America--History--20th centuryCommunist aesthetics--History--SourcesCulture--Study and teaching--United States--History--20th centuryMusic--History and criticismMusical criticism--United States--HistorySocialist realism--History--Sources


Cohen, R. S. (Robert Sonné)Finkelstein, Sidney Walter, 1909-1974Gorton, Sally Kent, 1915-2000Hille, Waldemar, 1908-Kent, Rockwell, 1882-1971Lawson, John Howard, 1894-Richmond, Al, 1913-1987Selsam, Millicent Ellis, 1912-Siegmeister, Elie, 1909-Thomson, Virgil, 1896-Veinus, Abraham

Types of material

Letters (Correspondence)Photographs