James Gibbons Huneker (31 January 1857 – 9 February 1921) was an American music writer and critic.
Huneker was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied piano in Europe under Leopold Doutreleau and audited the Paris piano class of Frédéric Chopin's pupil Georges Mathias. He came to New York City in 1885 and remained there until his death. In the USA he studied with Franz Liszt's student Rafael Joseffy, who became his friend and mentor.
Huneker wrote the analysis and commentary on the complete works of Chopin for Schirmer's music publishing company. His analysis of all the piano solo works of Johannes Brahms, written shortly after that composer's complete works were published after his death, is highly regarded.
His books include:
- Mezzotints in Modern Music (1899)
- Chopin: The Man and His Music (1900)
- Melomaniacs (1902)
- Overtones (1904)
- Iconoclasts (1905)
- Visionaries (1905)
- Egoists: A Book of Supermen (1909)
- Promenades of an Impressionist (1910)
- Franz Liszt (1911)
- The Pathos of Distance (1913)
- Old Fogy (1913)
- Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks (New York, 1915)
- New Cosmopolis (1915)
- Unicorns (1917)
- Bedouins (1920)
- Painted Veils. New York: Liveright, 1920. (The Black and Gold Library). 1st ed. Signed by Huneker. Limited to 1,200 copies.
- Steeplejack (1920)
- Variations (1921)
- Intimate Letters of James Gibbons Huneker (New York: Issued for Subscribers Only by Boni and Liveright, 1924). Limited to 2050 numbered copies.
- Painted Veils (1930)
- Painted Veils. With a preface by Benjamin de Casseres. New York: Liveright, 1942.
Huneker is mostly remembered now for his music criticism. He was a music critic who familiarized Americans with then modern European artistic movements and wrote in a highly subjective style, full of metaphorical descriptions.
He also wrote fiction, including the short stories collected in Melomaniacs and Visionaries, and the novel Painted Veils.
Huneker contributed to M'lle New York, a magazine of American Decadence founded jointly with Vance Thompson. While this was a remarkable magazine in many ways, its written content and its illustrations occasionally express the casual anti-Semitism of the period, but these could not have been written by Huneker (most likely they flowed from Thomson's pen), for Huneker was well known for espousing the opposite view, that the Jews were perhaps the most talented race in the world. The most authoritative reference on Huneker is the 1963 biography by Arnold T. Schwab, James Gibbons Huneker Critic of the Seven Arts published by Stanford University.
Following Huneker's comment in reference to Chopin's Étude Op. 25, No. 11 that "Small souled men, no matter how agile their fingers, should avoid it", Douglas Hofstadter, in his book I Am a Strange Loop, named the unit by which "soul size" is measured the huneker (lower case).
A thorough and objective study of the writings of James Huneker is an article by Arno Karlen, "Huneker and Other Lost Arts". This article is a counter to the current trend to discredit and deprecate one of America's most important critics of the time.
- Chopin : the Man and His Music by James Huneker at Project Gutenberg
- A New Journey into Hofstadter's Mind by George Johnson, Scientific American, February 18, 2007
- Karlen, Arno (Autumn 1981). "Huneker and Other Lost Arts". Antioch Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 402-421. Available from various online sources including JSTOR.
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- Works by James Huneker at Project Gutenberg
- Works by James Huneker in the Universal Library at Carnegie-Mellon
- Free scores by James Huneker at the International Music Score Library Project