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Aaron Copland: Career and Achievements

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Aaron Copland was the embodiment of what a composer can hope to become.

Copland was very much in touch not only with himself and his feelings, but withthe audience he intended to reach. Very few composers have a concrete idea ofwhat “types” of people they wish their music to reach. Copland was one of thesefew. The “Common Man” was the central part of much of his volumes of musicstrived to reach. Copland felt that, “. .everyone should have a chance to seethings through this music.

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Limiting who can understand it only limits yourusefulness” Throughout his 75+ years as a composer and conductor, he touchedthe lives and hearts of as many people as he could.

Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1900 to fairly affluentparents. Because of his family’s financial status, he started formally trainingas a teen, and moved to Paris where he became the first American student ofNadia Boulanger. It was here that Copland developed much of his neo-classicalstyle. Although he enjoyed the precise structure that Boulanger had taught him,Copland’s heart was truly in creating music that people other than musicianscould appreciate.

It was upon his return to America in 1924 that he decided thathe would write “. . .truly American music.” He traveled throughout America,getting a taste of what the “common man” was listening to. During these travelshe strayed into Mexico, and wrote the highly successful El Salon Mexico. A quotefrom the fall of 1932 sums up his intentions in writing this piece: “Anycomposer who goes outside his native land wants to return bearing musicalsouvenirs.” This is exactly what he did. The piece is a lively adaptation ofFrances Toor’s Cancionero Mexicano, with a very loose tempo, and heavy use ofthe horn section.

It was after the success of El Salon Mexico that Copland proceeded toproduce what is now considered the epitome of “American” music. He combined hisneo-classical schooling with jazz-like syncopation and a new, more “open” use ofold chordal progressions.He created Billy The Kid in 1938, producing thefirst “Western” musical. The score achieved a remarkable balance betweenoutright humor and pathos, and oftentimes bordered on tragic. It was this baseunderstanding of humanity that made Copland’s music what it is. Many texts alsorefer to a certain built in sympathy that Copland may have had for the maincharacter, citing his homosexuality as a cause for his deep understanding ofwhat it is to be looked down upon by society.

Another rowdy musical followed, entitled Rodeo. This piece was comprisedof a similar hybrid of popular western themes, and used as a story line theuniversally known as “The Ugly Duckling”. Rodeo had it’s premiere in 1942 atthe Metropolitan Opera House, and was judged as an unqualified success.

Copland was clearly breaking down barriers with his “common” music. TheMetropolitan Opera was known at this time for it’s stuffy renditions of Verdiand Puccini’s operas, and not for the joyful playfulness of such a work.

The warm exuberance of Copland’s music attracted Martha Graham in 1943.

She commissioned him to write a score for her ballet entitled Appalachian Spring,which is impossible not to mention. (despite the fact that we heard it in class)Appalachian spring brought nothing but good fortune to Copland, assuring him aneternal place in classical music. It was after the widespread success of Springthat he produced his most prolific piece, and perhaps the best summation of hisattitude towards classical music, “Fanfare for the Common Man” Finished in 1942,this was one of 18 pieces commissioned by Eugene Goossens for the CincinnatiSymphony Orchestra.The horns and the timpani play a major role, producing astrong and bold urgency. This provides an interesting paradox: “Common Man”seems to be as “American” as a piece could get. It is strong, bold, to the pointand unquestioning. Interestingly enough, Copland was spending much of his timewith an extreme leftist group of friends who made plays about the injustice andhypocrisy that existed in society during the 1940’s.

Copland was not only known for his prolific style and unquestionablecompositional language. He was also a great supporter of other musicians,sponsoring event after event, and starting the career of the now world renownedLeonard Bernstein . He spoke and taught at countless Universities across thecountry, and gave to the American people a style of music that they could claimas their own. All of this is an example of the caring and humanity that was boththe cornerstone and the trademark of his music. Although he died in 1990, hismusic will live on in the hearts and minds of the American people as long asthere is a place called “America.”Category: Music and Movies

Cite this Aaron Copland: Career and Achievements

Aaron Copland: Career and Achievements. (2019, May 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/aaron-copland-3/

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