Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Aaron Copland - America's Music

Now that we're still somewhat in the celebratory spirit and the July 4th festivities are lingering inside us, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about Aaron Copland, the father of American music.  Honestly, I fell in love with Copland the first time I heard his music.  I remember quite vividly listening to a piece on the radio when I was a child which I really liked, and as it turned out it was Copland (although I do not remember exactly which one).  The great thing about Copland is he was able to write music which had a uniquely modern style to it, very American with elements of jazz and folk, while simultaneously keeping the sound extremely conservative as there are barely any elements of dissonance or atonality in it.  A lot of his music is fun and jolly (the first time I heard "Billy the Kid" I literally laughed it was so great), and some of his music is more solemn and serious, but everything he wrote had a really special spirit to it.  Here is a clip of one of his pieces, Rodeo, which I'm sure you've heard even if you're not familiar with his music.

It should be pretty clear to you now why Copland is known to be the father of Ameican music.  Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1900 to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania.  When he was an adolescent and young adult he felt that if he tried he would be able to make classical music in America just as popular as jazz was.  In a sense he succeeded.  As a young man he went to France to study music, which was at that time the heart of music, and he met great personalities such as Serge Koussevitzky who encouraged him to write a piece for the Boston Symphony Orchestra to which he obliged and entitled the composition "Symphony for Organ and Orchestra".   Throughout his life Copland wrote many pieces, much of which included scores for the theater and ballet.  He wasn't just limited to American music either.  Copland's dream was to bring classical music to Mexico as well.  In the 1930's he wrote a composition called "El Salon Mexico" which really was able to synthesize classical music with Mexican folk music.  Some of his most famous scores were from the movie "Our Town" and "Of Mice and Men".  He was also very involved in Tanglewood, the Berkshire summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in which he taught for nearly two and half decades.  There was also a stage in his life when he was involved in conducting and he made appearances throughout the world as a guest conductor.  
In my opinion what made Copland really special was his passion to bring classical music to the world and his vision of integrating it with the popular music of the time.  He was a romantic; he was an impressionist; he was a modernist.  He created the future and he continued the past. 

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