Sidney Finkelstein Papers

11 boxes (5.5 linear ft.)
Call no.: MS 128
rotating decorative images from SCUA collections

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.

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Background on Sidney Walter Finkelstein

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.

Born July 4, Brooklyn, NY
B.A., City College
Book reviewer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A.M., Columbia University
Music staff, The Herald Tribune; also music reviewer, New Masses, Masses and Mainstream, and other publications
Staff, Vanguard Records
M.A., New York University
Called to testify before House Un-American Activities Committee
Died, January 14, Brooklyn, NY; survived by two brothers

Scope of 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

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


This collection is organized into three series:


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

Administrative information


The collection is open for research.


Acquired from: Maynard Solomon, 1986.

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.

Processing Information

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




Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Copyright and Use (More information )

Cite as: Sidney Finkelstein Papers (MS 128). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms


  • 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.


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

Genres and formats

  • Manuscripts.
  • Photographs.

Link to similar SCUA collections