Marc Blitzstein

Marc Blitzstein

1905 - 1964

A composer who stood up for leftist causes through his musical compositions, Marc Blitzstein sought to tell the story of the everyday American through musical theater. As a song writer, Blitzstein also set the poetry of American poets such as e. e. cummings and Walt Whitman. His work was controversial throughout his lifetime, and he is well-known for his musical The Cradle Will Rock, as well as bringing Weill and Brecht's Three Penny Opera to American audiences.


Tyler Thompson, baritone, and John Musto, piano, perform "Stay in My Arms" at Pepperdine University as part of SongFest 2008. The YouTube video of that performance, provided in the media player to the right, is made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest.


Born in Philadelphia, Marc Blitzstein attended the University of Pennsylvania for a time, and then the Curtis Institute of Music. Blitzstein spent time studying composition in Europe with both Nadia Boulanger and Arnold Schoenberg.

Blitzstein's early compositions reflected the Modernist style of atonality, which Blitzstein later denouced. These early, more "elitist" works included songs on Walt Whitman texts.

In 1928, Blitzstein married, despite his open homosexuality. He and his wife, Eva Goldbeck, stayed married, united by their devotion to leftist causes, until Goldbeck's death in 1936. Her death affected Blitzstein deeply and prompted him to dive into The Cradle Will Rock.

Blitzstein came to reject atonality and elitism in music and felt that a composer should join the causes of the masses. His musical style can be described as "abstract neo-classicism" and based in tonality as well as musical genres such as blues and pop, are based on this principal. Blitzstein's musicals often faced governmental opposition. For example, The Cradle Will Rock (1936-7), was cancelled before it even opened because of its anti-establishment, pro-union sentiments. However, it opened Off-Broadway later thanks to private funding.

More information about Marc Blitzstein can be found through the links listed to the right.

--Christie Finn

POETS & Writers Set BY Blitzstein (entered to date)

Audio PLaylist

CD / DVD / MP3