Five College Archives and Manuscript
UMass Amherst seal
Sidney Finkelstein Papers, 1914-1974
11 boxes (5.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: 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.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

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.

1909Born July 4, Brooklyn, NY
1929B.A., City College
1930sBook reviewer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
1932A.M., Columbia University
1940sMusic staff, The Herald Tribune; also music reviewer, New Masses, Masses and Mainstream, and other publications
1951-1973Staff, Vanguard Records
1955M.A., New York University
1957Called to testify before House Un-American Activities Committee
1974Died, January 14, Brooklyn, NY; survived by two brothers
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
1946Axelrod, Eric
1970Cameron, Angus--of Knopf
1965Capouya, Emile
1955Cazden, Norman
1964Cohen, Robert Sonné--physicist
1955, 1956Downes, Olin--critic
1964Gelbin, Gertrude--editor, Seven Seas
n.d.Hille, Waldemar
1956, 1965Kent, Rockwell and Sally
1948Lask, Tom--New York Times Book Review
1965, 1966Lawson, John Howard
1970Lowenfels, Walter
1964Lumer, Hyman--editor, Political Affairs
1969Markin, Ann
1966Richmond, Al
1972Russell, Ross
1966Selsam, Millicent and Howard
1971Schneerson, Grigon
1947Siegmeister, Eliew--composer
1948Smith, Harrison--Saturday Review
1953Tamura, Toshio
1948Thomson, Virgil--composer
1959Veiaus, Abraham--Syracuse Univ.
1966_______, John
Organization of the collection

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, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

History of the Collection

Acquired from: Maynard Solomon, 1986.

Processing Information

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

Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Link to SCUA
Related Materials
Communism and Socialism
Literature and language
Performing arts
Social change

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 Literature. 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.

Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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 Art

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 (fragment)

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 Look

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 (fragment)

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 response

Box 2:38
On Arnold Hauser's "The Social History of Art" (fragment)

Box 2:39
Dialectical Materialism and the Arts

Box 2:40
On John Dewey's "Art as Experience"

Box 2:41
On Tagore's play "The King of the Dark Chamber" (fragment)

Box 2:42
On two articles regarding young intellectuals

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 Freedom

Box 3-5:46-71
Notes on Greece/Spain: High Renaissance architecture, Spanish Colonial architecture, Romanesque sculpture

Box 6:72-73
On Henry James' "The Sacred Fount"

Box 6:74
James: Introduction to Princess Cassanassima

Box 6:75
Dialectical materialism & Art/ What Is Art?

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 versions

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

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Art criticism--United States--History--20th century--Sources.
  • Cohen, R. S. (Robert Sonné)--Correspondence.
  • Communism--United States--History--Sources.
  • Communist Party of the United States of America--History--20th century--Sources.
  • Communist aesthetics--History--Sources.
  • Criticism--United States--History--20th century--Sources.
  • Critics--United States--Archives.
  • Culture--Study and teaching--United States--History--20th century--Sources.
  • Finkelstein, Sidney Walter, 1909-1974--Archives.
  • Finkelstein, Sidney Walter, 1909-1974--Correspondence.
  • Gorton, Sally Kent, 1915-2000--Correspondence.
  • Hille, Waldemar, 1908- --Correspondence.
  • Kent, Rockwell, 1882-1971--Correspondence.
  • Lawson, John Howard, 1894- --Correspondence.
  • Music--History and criticism--Sources.
  • Musical criticism--United States--History--Sources.
  • Richmond, Al, 1913-1987--Correspondence.
  • Selsam, Millicent Ellis, 1912- --Correspondence.
  • Siegmeister, Elie, 1909- --Correspondence.
  • Socialist realism--History--Sources.
  • Thomson, Virgil, 1896- --Correspondence.
  • Veinus, Abraham--Correspondence.

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

Genre terms
  • Manuscripts.
  • Photographs.

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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