For Thomson's generation, the musical background of educated families was still mostly German, consisting of the local piano teacher, the church organ, folk songs in school, minstrel songs, ragtime and possibly a local conservatory. Annual musical events consisted of visits by the Sousa Band, the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, and traveling virtuosi like Paderewski, Busoni and Jenny Lind.
After World War I, Thomson came under French influence at Harvard, where he studied with Edward Burlingame Hill and Archibald T. Davison, who had both studied with Widor. In 1921, on a fellowship in Paris, he studied organ and counterpoint with Nadia Boulanger and met Satie. He stayed on in Paris from 1925-1940 and wrote his early music which was influenced by Satie and Stravinsky. His first opera, "Four Saints in Three Acts" (with text by Gertrude Stein) was a 'succes de scandale'. In the United States in 1940, his second opera, "The Mother of Us All" (text also by Stein) had richer colors, was more serious, and reflected America in its hymns and song styles. Thomson became very much his own man, but sometimes his musical language had a slight French accent and sometimes a Kansas City brogue. He was a composer with a fine ear who stubbornly refused to notate anything that he couldn't imagine with his inner ear. The result was a long list of clear and accessible scores always reflecting Thomson's personality and accessible to the general public when well performed. His musical personality is unique among 20th century composers.
Reviews"Collectively, these  pieces, none of which runs more than seven minutes, remain one of the minor treasures of the American musical legacy." - San Francisco Examiner