Aaron Copland
Overview
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers". He is best known to the public for the works he wrote in the 1930s and 40s in a deliberately more accessible style than his earlier pieces, including the ballets Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring is a modern score composed by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite...

, Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid (ballet)
Billy the Kid is a 1938 ballet written by the American composer Aaron Copland and commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein. It was choreographed by Eugene Loring for Ballet Caravan. Along with Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, it is one of Copland's most popular and widely performed pieces...

, Rodeo
Rodeo (Copland)
Rodeo is a ballet scored by Aaron Copland and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, which premiered in 1942. Subtitled "The Courting at Burnt Ranch", the ballet consists of five sections: "Buckaroo Holiday", "Ranch House Party", "Corral Nocturne", "Saturday Night Waltz", and "Hoe-Down"...

and his Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man is a 20th-century American classical music work by American composer Aaron Copland. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. It was inspired in part by a famous speech made earlier in the same year where vice...

.
Unanswered Questions
Quotations

"For me, the most important thing is the element of chance that is built into a live performance. The very great drawback of recorded sound is the fact that it is always the same. No matter how wonderful a recording is, I know that I couldn't live with it--even of my own music--with the same nuances forever." Quoted in Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music, ISBN 0028645812

"I hope my recordings of my own works won't inhibit other people's performances. The brutal fact is that one doesn't always get the exact tempo one wants, although one improves with experience." Quoted in Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music, ISBN 0028645812

Encyclopedia
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers". He is best known to the public for the works he wrote in the 1930s and 40s in a deliberately more accessible style than his earlier pieces, including the ballets Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring is a modern score composed by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite...

, Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid (ballet)
Billy the Kid is a 1938 ballet written by the American composer Aaron Copland and commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein. It was choreographed by Eugene Loring for Ballet Caravan. Along with Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, it is one of Copland's most popular and widely performed pieces...

, Rodeo
Rodeo (Copland)
Rodeo is a ballet scored by Aaron Copland and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, which premiered in 1942. Subtitled "The Courting at Burnt Ranch", the ballet consists of five sections: "Buckaroo Holiday", "Ranch House Party", "Corral Nocturne", "Saturday Night Waltz", and "Hoe-Down"...

and his Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man is a 20th-century American classical music work by American composer Aaron Copland. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. It was inspired in part by a famous speech made earlier in the same year where vice...

. The open, slowly changing harmonies of many of his works are archetypical of what many people consider to be the sound of American music, evoking the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit. However, he wrote music in different styles at different periods of his life: his early works incorporated jazz or avant-garde elements whereas his later music incorporated serial techniques. In addition to his ballets and orchestral works he produced music in many other genres including chamber music, vocal works, opera and film scores.

Early life

Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

 of Lithuanian Jewish descent, the last of five children, on November 14, 1900. Before emigrating from Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 to the United States, Copland's father, Harris Morris Copland, Anglicized
Anglicisation
Anglicisation, or anglicization , is the process of converting verbal or written elements of any other language into a form that is more comprehensible to an English speaker, or, more generally, of altering something such that it becomes English in form or character.The term most often refers to...

 his surname "Kaplan" to "Copland" while waiting in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 en route to America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Throughout his childhood, Copland and his family lived above his parents' Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

 shop, H.M. Copland's, at 628 Washington Avenue (which Aaron would later describe as "a kind of neighborhood Macy's
Macy's
Macy's is a U.S. chain of mid-to-high range department stores. In addition to its flagship Herald Square location in New York City, the company operates over 800 stores in the United States...

"), on the corner of Dean Street and Washington Avenue, and most of the children helped out in the store. His father was a staunch Democrat. The family members were active in Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes, where Aaron celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Not especially athletic, the sensitive young man became an avid reader and often read Horatio Alger stories on his front steps.

Copland's father had no musical interest at all, but his mother, Sarah Mittenthal Copland, sang and played the piano, and arranged for music lessons for her children. Of his siblings, oldest brother Ralph was the most advanced musically, proficient on the violin, while his sister Laurine had the strongest connection with Aaron, giving him his first piano lessons, promoting his musical education, and supporting him in his musical career. She attended the Metropolitan Opera School and was a frequent opera goer. She often brought home libretti for Aaron to study. Copland attended Boys' High School and in the summer went to various camps. Most of his early exposure to music was at Jewish weddings and ceremonies, and occasional family musicales.

At the age of eleven, Copland devised an opera scenario he called Zenatello, which included seven bars of music, his first notated melody. From 1913 to 1917 he took music lessons with Leopold Wolfsohn, who taught him the standard classical fare. Copland's first public music performance was at a Wanamaker recital.

By the age of 15, after attending a concert by composer-pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Ignacy Jan Paderewski GBE was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat, politician, and the second Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.-Biography:...

, Copland decided to become a composer. After attempts to further his music study from a correspondence course, Copland took formal lessons in harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

, theory
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

, and composition
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

 from Rubin Goldmark
Rubin Goldmark
Rubin Goldmark was an American composer, pianist, and educator. Although in his time he was an often performed American nationalist composer, his works are seldom played – instead he is known as the teacher of Aaron Copland and George Gershwin...

, a noted teacher and composer of American music (who had given George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 three lessons). Goldmark gave the young Copland a solid foundation, especially in the Germanic tradition, as he stated later: "This was a stroke of luck for me. I was spared the floundering that so many musicians have suffered through incompetent teaching." But Copland also commented that the maestro had "little sympathy for the advanced musical idioms of the day" and his "approved" composers ended with Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

.

Copland's graduation piece from his studies with Goldmark was a three-movement piano sonata
Sonata
Sonata , in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata , a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era...

 in a Romantic style
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

. But he had also composed more original and daring pieces which he did not share with his teacher. In addition to regularly attending the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 and the New York Symphony, where he heard the standard classical repertory, Copland continued his musical development through an expanding circle of musical friends. After graduating from high school, Copland played in dance bands. Continuing his musical education, he received further piano lessons from Victor Wittgenstein, who found his student to be "quiet, shy, well-mannered, and gracious in accepting criticism." Copland's fascination with the Russian Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 and its promise for freeing the lower classes drew a rebuke from his father and uncles. In spite of that, in his early adult life Copland would develop friendships with people with socialist and communist leanings.

Studying in Paris

From 1917 to 1921, Copland composed juvenile works of short piano pieces and art songs. Copland's passion for the latest European music, plus glowing letters from his friend Aaron Schaffer, inspired him to go to Paris for further study. His father wanted him to go to college, but his mother's vote in the family conference allowed him to give Paris a try. On arriving in France, he studied at the Fontainebleau School of Music with noted pianist and pedagogue Isidor Philipp
Isidor Philipp
Isidor Philipp was a French pianist, composer, and distinguished pedagogue of Hungarian descent. He was born in Budapest and died in Paris.-Biography:...

 and with Paul Vidal. But finding Vidal too much like Goldmark, Copland switched to famed teacher Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor and teacher who taught many composers and performers of the 20th century.From a musical family, she achieved early honours as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, but believing that her talent as a composer was inferior to that of her younger...

, then aged thirty-four. He had initial reservations: "No one to my knowledge had ever before thought of studying with a woman." She interviewed him, and recalled later: "One could tell his talent immediately."

Boulanger had as many as forty students at once and employed a formal regimen that Copland had to follow, too. Copland found her incisive mind much to his liking and stated: "This intellectual Amazon is not only professor at the Conservatoire, is not only familiar with all music from Bach to Stravinsky, but is prepared for anything worse in the way of dissonance. But make no mistake...A more charming womanly woman never lived." Though he planned on only one year abroad, he studied with her for three years, finding her eclectic approach inspired his own broad musical taste.

Adding to the heady cultural atmosphere of the early 1920s in Paris was the presence of expatriate American writers Paul Bowles
Paul Bowles
Paul Frederic Bowles was an American expatriate composer, author, and translator.Following a cultured middle-class upbringing in New York City, during which he displayed a talent for music and writing, Bowles pursued his education at the University of Virginia before making various trips to Paris...

, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...

, Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

, and Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, as well as artists like Picasso, Chagall, and Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. Primarily a figurative artist, he became known for paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form...

. Also influential on the new music were the French intellectuals Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

, Paul Valéry
Paul Valéry
Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. His interests were sufficiently broad that he can be classified as a polymath...

, Sartre, and André Gide
André Gide
André Paul Guillaume Gide was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947. Gide's career ranged from its beginnings in the symbolist movement, to the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars.Known for his fiction as well as his autobiographical works, Gide...

, the latter cited by Copland as being his personal favorite and most read. Travels to Italy, Austria, and Germany rounded out Copland's musical education. During his stay in Paris, Copland began writing musical critiques, the first on Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Urbain Fauré was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th century composers...

, which helped spread his fame and stature in the music community. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and self-destruction like many of the expatriate members of the Lost Generation
Lost Generation
The "Lost Generation" is a term used to refer to the generation, actually a cohort, that came of age during World War I. The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, The Sun Also Rises. In that volume Hemingway credits the phrase to...

, Copland returned to America optimistic and enthusiastic about the future.

1925 to 1950

Upon returning to America, Copland was determined to make his way as a full-time composer. He rented a studio apartment on New York City's Upper West Side
Upper West Side
The Upper West Side is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, that lies between Central Park and the Hudson River and between West 59th Street and West 125th Street...

, which kept him close to Carnegie Hall and other musical venues and publishers. He remained in that area for the next thirty years, later moving to Westchester County, New York. Copland lived frugally and survived financially with help from two $2,500 Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." Each year, the foundation makes...

s—one in 1925 and one in 1926. Lecture-recitals, awards, appointments and small commissions, plus some teaching, writing, and personal loans kept him afloat in the subsequent years through World War II. Also important were wealthy patrons who supported the arts community during the Depression, underwriting performances, publication and promotion of musical events and composers.

Copland's compositions in the early 1920s reflected the prevailing "modernist" attitude among intellectuals: that they were a small vanguard leading the way for the masses, who would only come to appreciate their efforts over time. In this view, music and the other arts need be accessible to only a select cadre of the enlightened. Toward this end, Copland formed the Young Composer's Group, modeled after France's "Six"
Les Six
Les six is a name, inspired by The Five, given in 1920 by critic Henri Collet in an article titled "" to a group of six composers working in Montparnasse whose music is often seen as a reaction against the musical style of Richard Wagner and impressionist music.-Members:Formally, the Groupe des...

, gathering together promising young composers, acting as their guiding spirit.

Soon after his return, Copland was introduced to the artistic circle of Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form...

 and met many of the leading artists of that time. Stieglitz's conviction that the American artist should reflect "the ideas of American Democracy" influenced Copland and a whole generation of artists and photographers, including Paul Strand
Paul Strand
Paul Strand was an American photographer and filmmaker who, along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century...

, Edward Weston
Edward Weston
Edward Henry Weston was a 20th century American photographer. He has been called "one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…" and "one of the masters of 20th century photography." Over the course of his forty-year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of...

, Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams
Ansel Easton Adams was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park....

, Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American artist.Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists...

, and Walker Evans
Walker Evans
Walker Evans was an American photographer best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans's work from the FSA period uses the large-format, 8x10-inch camera...

. Evans' photographs inspired portions of Copland's opera The Tender Land.

In his quest to take up Stieglitz's challenge, Copland had few established American contemporaries to emulate apart from Carl Ruggles
Carl Ruggles
Charles "Carl" Sprague Ruggles was an American composer of the American Five group. He wrote finely crafted pieces using "dissonant counterpoint", a term coined by Charles Seeger to describe Ruggles' music...

 and the reclusive Charles Ives
Charles Ives
Charles Edward Ives was an American modernist composer. He is one of the first American composers of international renown, though Ives' music was largely ignored during his life, and many of his works went unperformed for many years. Over time, Ives came to be regarded as an "American Original"...

, although the 1920s were Golden Years for American popular music and jazz, with George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

, Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith was an American blues singer.Sometimes referred to as The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s...

 and Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

 leading the way. Later, however, Copland joined up with his younger contemporaries and formed a group termed the "commando unit," which included Roger Sessions
Roger Sessions
Roger Huntington Sessions was an American composer, critic, and teacher of music.-Life:Sessions was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family that could trace its roots back to the American revolution. His mother, Ruth Huntington Sessions, was a direct descendent of Samuel Huntington, a signer of...

, Roy Harris
Roy Harris
Roy Ellsworth Harris , was an American composer. He wrote much music on American subjects, becoming best known for his Symphony No...

, Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music...

, and Walter Piston
Walter Piston
Walter Hamor Piston Jr., , was an American composer of classical music, music theorist and professor of music at Harvard University whose students included Leroy Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, and Elliott Carter....

. They collaborated in joint concerts showcasing their work to new audiences.

Copland's relationship with the "commando unit" was one of both support and rivalry, and he played a key role in keeping them together. The five young American composers helped promote each other and their works but also had testy exchanges, inflamed by the assertion of the press that Copland was the "truly American" composer. Going beyond the five, Copland was generous with his time with nearly every American young composer he met during his life, later earning the title the "Dean of American Music."

Mounting troubles with the Symphonic Ode (1929) and Short Symphony (1933) caused him to rethink the paradigm of composing orchestral music for a select group, as it was a financially contradictory approach, particularly in the Depression. In many ways, this shift mirrored the German idea of Gebrauchsmusik
Gebrauchsmusik
Gebrauchsmusik is a German term, essentially meaning “utility music,” for music that exists not only for its own sake, but which was composed for some specific, identifiable purpose...

 ("music for use"), as composers sought to create music that could serve a utilitarian as well as artistic purpose. This approach encompassed two trends: first, music that students could easily learn, and second, music which would have wider appeal, such as incidental music for plays, movies, radio, etc. Copland undertook both goals, starting in the mid 1930s.
Perhaps motivated by the plight of children during the Depression, around 1935 Copland began to compose musical pieces for young audiences, in accordance with the first goal of American Gebrauchsmusik. These works included piano pieces (The Young Pioneers) and an opera (The Second Hurricane).

During the Depression years, Copland traveled extensively to Europe, Africa and Mexico. He formed an important friendship with Mexican composer Carlos Chávez
Carlos Chávez
Carlos Antonio de Padua Chávez y Ramírez was a Mexican composer, conductor, music theorist, educator, journalist, and founder and director of the Mexican Symphonic Orchestra. He was influenced by native Mexican cultures. Of his six Symphonies, his Symphony No...

 and would return often to Mexico for working vacations conducting engagements During his initial visit to Mexico, Copland began composing the first of his signature works, El Salón México
El Salón México
El Salón México is a symphonic composition in one movement by Aaron Copland, which uses Mexican folk music extensively.-Analysis and history:...

, which he completed four years later in 1936. This and other incidental commissions fulfilled the second goal of American Gebrauchsmusik
Gebrauchsmusik
Gebrauchsmusik is a German term, essentially meaning “utility music,” for music that exists not only for its own sake, but which was composed for some specific, identifiable purpose...

, creating music of wide appeal.

During this time, he composed (for radio broadcast) "Prairie Journal," one of his first pieces to convey the landscape of the American West. Branching out into theater, Copland also played an important role providing musical advice and inspiration to The Group Theater—Stella Adler
Stella Adler
Stella Adler was an American actress and an acclaimed acting teacher, who founded the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City and the The Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles with long-time protege Joanne Linville, who continues to teach and furthers Adler's legacy...

's and Lee Strasberg
Lee Strasberg
Lee Strasberg was an American actor, director and acting teacher. He cofounded, with directors Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, the Group Theatre in 1931, which was hailed as "America's first true theatrical collective"...

's "method" acting school. The Group Theater followed Copland's musical agenda and focused on plays that illuminated the American experience. After Hitler and Mussolini's attacks on Spain in 1936, leftist parties had united in a Popular Front
Popular front
A popular front is a broad coalition of different political groupings, often made up of leftists and centrists. Being very broad, they can sometimes include centrist and liberal forces as well as socialist and communist groups...

 against Fascism. Many Group Theater members were influenced by Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 and other progressive philosophies, and several had joined the Communist Party, including Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was an American director and actor, described by the New York Times as "one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history". Born in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to Greek parents originally from Kayseri in Anatolia, the family emigrated...

 and Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

. Copland also had contact later with other major American playwrights, including Thorton Wilder, William Inge
William Inge
William Motter Inge was an American playwright and novelist, whose works typically feature solitary protagonists encumbered with strained sexual relations. In the early 1950s, he had a string of memorable Broadway productions, and one of these, Picnic, earned him a Pulitzer Prize...

, Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

, and Edward Albee
Edward Albee
Edward Franklin Albee III is an American playwright who is best known for The Zoo Story , The Sandbox , Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , and a rewrite of the screenplay for the unsuccessful musical version of Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's . His works are considered well-crafted, often...

 and considered projects with all of them. During the 1930s, Copland wrote incidental music for several plays, including Irwin Shaw
Irwin Shaw
Irwin Shaw was a prolific American playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and short-story author whose written works have sold more than 14 million copies. He is best-known for his novel, The Young Lions about the fate of three soldiers during World War II that was made into a film starring Marlon...

's "Quiet City" (1939), considered one of his most personal and poignant scores.

In 1939, Copland completed his first two Hollywood film scores, for Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men (1939 film)
Of Mice and Men is a 1939 film based on the novella of the same title by American author John Steinbeck. It stars Burgess Meredith, Betty Field, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, Bob Steele and Noah Beery, Jr...

and Our Town, and received sizable commissions. In the same year, he composed the radio score "John Henry", based on the folk ballad. But it wasn’t until the worldwide market for classical recordings boomed after World War II that he achieved economic security. Even after securing a comfortable income, he continued to write, teach, lecture and eventually conduct.

Demonstrating his broad range, Copland in the 1930s began composing music for ballet, including his highly successful Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid (ballet)
Billy the Kid is a 1938 ballet written by the American composer Aaron Copland and commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein. It was choreographed by Eugene Loring for Ballet Caravan. Along with Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, it is one of Copland's most popular and widely performed pieces...

(1939), the second of four ballets he scored (after Hear Ye! Hear Ye! (1934)). Copland's ballet music established him as an authentic composer of American music much as Stravinsky's ballet scores established him with Russian music. Copland's timing was excellent; he helped fill a vacuum for the American choreographers who needed suitable music to score their own nationalistic dance repertory.

In keeping with the wartime period, Copland's "Piano Sonata" (1941) was a piece characterized as "grim, nervous, elegiac, with pervasive bell-like tolling of alarm and mourning." It was later adapted to "Day on Earth," a landmark American dance by Doris Humphrey.

Copland started to publish some of his lectures in the 1930s, "What to Listen for in Music" being one of the most notable of his writings. He also took a leadership role in the American Composers Alliance, whose mission was "to regularize and collect all fees pertaining to performance of their copyrighted music" and "to stimulate interest in the performance of American music." Copland eventually moved over to rival ASCAP. Through royalties and with his great success from 1940 on, Copland amassed a multi-million dollar fortune by the time of his death.

The decade of the 1940s was arguably Copland's most productive, and it firmly established his worldwide fame. His two ballet scores for Rodeo
Rodeo (Copland)
Rodeo is a ballet scored by Aaron Copland and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, which premiered in 1942. Subtitled "The Courting at Burnt Ranch", the ballet consists of five sections: "Buckaroo Holiday", "Ranch House Party", "Corral Nocturne", "Saturday Night Waltz", and "Hoe-Down"...

(1942) and Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring is a modern score composed by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite...

(1944) were huge successes. His pieces Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portrait is a classical orchestral work written by the American composer Aaron Copland. The work involves a full orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass section at climactic moments. The work is narrated with the reading of excerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great documents, including...

and Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man is a 20th-century American classical music work by American composer Aaron Copland. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. It was inspired in part by a famous speech made earlier in the same year where vice...

have become patriotic standards (See Popular works, below). Also important was the Third Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Copland)
Symphony No. 3 was Aaron Copland's third and final symphony, its premiere performance taking place on October 18, 1946, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky.It was written at the end of World War II...

. Composed in a two-year period from 1944 to 1946, it became the most popular American symphony of the 20th Century.

In 1945, Copland contributed to Jubilee Variation, a work commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony in which ten America composers collaborated. But the piece is seldom heard in the concert hall. Copland's In the Beginning (1947) is a choral work using the first chapter and the first seven verses of the second chapter of Genesis from the King James Version of the Bible and is a masterpiece of the choral repertory.

Copland's Clarinet Concerto (1948), scored for solo clarinet, strings, harp, and piano, was a commission piece for bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

 and a complement to Copland's earlier jazz-influenced work, the Piano Concerto (1926). His "Four Piano Blues" is an introspective composition with a jazz influence.

Copland finished the 1940s with two film scores, one for William Wyler
William Wyler
William Wyler was a leading American motion picture director, producer, and screenwriter.Notable works included Ben-Hur , The Best Years of Our Lives , and Mrs. Miniver , all of which won Wyler Academy Awards for Best Director, and also won Best Picture...

's 1949 film, The Heiress
The Heiress
The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film. It was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play of the same title that was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film was directed by William Wyler, with starring performances by Olivia de Havilland as...

and one for the film adaptation of John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

's novel The Red Pony
The Red Pony (Copland)
The Red Pony is a film score composed for Lewis Milestone's 1949 production which used John Steinbeck's screenplay based on his short stories The Red Pony...

.

In 1949, he returned to Europe to find Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

 dominating the group of post-War radical musicians. He also met with the proponents of the twelve-tone school (Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, Anton Webern
Anton Webern
Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. He was a member of the Second Viennese School. As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique; in addition, his innovations regarding schematic organization of...

, and Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

) and found himself having greater sympathy for them than he did for the French, whom he felt were drifting too far from classical principles to suit his taste.

1950s and 1960s

In 1950, Copland received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Rome, which he did the following year. Around this time, he also composed his Piano Quartet, adopting Schoenberg's twelve-tone method of composition, and Old American Songs (1950), premiered by William Warfield
William Warfield
William Caesar Warfield , was an American concert bass-baritone singer and actor.-Early life and career:Warfield was born in West Helena, Arkansas and grew up in Rochester, New York, where his father was called to serve as pastor of Mt. Vernon Church. He gave his recital debut in New York's Town...

.

Because of the political climate of that era, A Lincoln Portrait was withdrawn from the 1953 inaugural concert for President Eisenhower. That same year, Copland was called before Congress, where he testified that he was never a communist.

Despite the difficulties that his suspected Communist sympathies posed, Copland nonetheless traveled extensively during the 1950s and early 1960s, observing the avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 styles of Europe while experiencing the new school of Soviet music. In addition, he was rather taken with the work of Toru Takemitsu
Toru Takemitsu
was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Largely self-taught, Takemitsu possessed consummate skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre...

 while in Japan and began a correspondence with him that would last over the next decade. Copland wrote of the Japanese composer: "He has the 'pure gold' touch, he chooses his notes carefully and meaningfully." Copland also gained exposure to the latest musical trends in Poland and Scandinavia. In observing these new musical forms, Copland revised his text "The New Music" with comments on the styles that he encountered. In particular, while Copland explained the importance of the work of John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

 and others (in his chapter titled "The Music of Chance"), he found that these radical trends in music which appealed to those "who enjoy teetering on the edge of chaos" were less likely to gain the appreciation of a wider audience "who envisage art as a bulwark against the irrationality of man's nature." As he summarized: "I’ve spent most of my life trying to get the right note in the right place. Just throwing it open to chance seems to go against my natural instincts."

In 1954, Copland received a commission from Richard Rodgers
Richard Rodgers
Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music for more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II...

 and Oscar Hammerstein
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost forty years. Hammerstein won eight Tony Awards and was twice awarded an Academy Award for "Best Original Song". Many of his songs are standard repertoire for...

 to create music for the opera The Tender Land
The Tender Land
The Tender Land is an opera with music by Aaron Copland and libretto by Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. The opera tells of a farm family in the Midwest of the United States. Copland was inspired to write this opera after viewing the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and...

, based on James Agee
James Agee
James Rufus Agee was an American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S...

's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book with text by American writer James Agee and photographs by American photographer Walker Evans first published in 1941 in the United States...

. Copland had been wary of writing an opera, being especially aware of the pitfalls of that form, including weak libretti and demanding production values. Nevertheless, Copland decided to try his hand at "la forme fatale," especially as the 1950s were boom times for American playwrights, with Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

, Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

 and Thorton Wilder doing some of their best work. Originally two acts, The Tender Land was later expanded to three. As Copland feared, critics found the libretto to be the opera's weakness, and he later stated: "I admit that if I have one regret it is that I never did write a 'grand opera'." In spite of its flaws, the opera has established itself as one of the few American operas in the standard repertory.

Copland exerted a major influence on the compositional style of an entire generation of American composers, including his friend and protégé Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

. Bernstein was considered the finest conductor of Copland's works and cites Copland's "aesthetic, simplicity with originality" as being his strongest and most influential traits.

Later life

From the 1960s onward, Copland's activities turned more from composing to conducting. Though not enamored with the prospect, he found himself without new ideas for composition, saying: "It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet." Copland was a frequent guest conductor of orchestras in the US and the UK. He made a series of recordings of his music, primarily for Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

. In 1960, RCA Victor released Copland's recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1881, the BSO plays most of its concerts at Boston's Symphony Hall and in the summer performs at the Tanglewood Music Center...

 of the orchestral suites from Appalachian Spring and The Tender Land; these recordings were later reissued on CD, as were most of Copland's Columbia recordings (by Sony).

From 1960 to his death, he resided at Cortlandt Manor, New York
Cortlandt Manor, New York
Cortlandt Manor is an area located in the Town of Cortlandt in Northern Westchester County, New York. Cortlandt Manor is situated directly east, north and south of Peekskill, and east of three sections of the Town of Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Crugers, and Montrose...

. His home, known as Rock Hill
Aaron Copland House
The Aaron Copland House, also known as Rock Hill or Copland House, is on Washington Street in Cortlandt Manor, New York, United States. It was built in the 1940s and was the home of composer Aaron Copland for the last 30 years of his life...

, was added to the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 in 2003. It was further designated a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 2008. Copland's health deteriorated through the 1980s, and he died of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

 and respiratory failure
Respiratory failure
The term respiratory failure, in medicine, is used to describe inadequate gas exchange by the respiratory system, with the result that arterial oxygen and/or carbon dioxide levels cannot be maintained within their normal ranges. A drop in blood oxygenation is known as hypoxemia; a rise in arterial...

 on December 2, 1990, in North Tarrytown, New York
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Sleepy Hollow is a village in the town of Mount Pleasant in Westchester County, New York, United States. It is located on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, about north of midtown Manhattan in New York City, and is served by the Philipse Manor stop on the Metro-North Hudson Line.Originally...

 (now Sleepy Hollow). Much of his large estate was bequeathed to the creation of the Aaron Copland Fund for Composers, which bestows over $600,000 per year to performing groups.

Personal life

Copland was a calm, affable, modest, and mild-mannered man, who masked his feelings. Even friends found it hard to crack his façade. Although shy, he preferred to be in a crowd rather than alone. He lived simply and approached composing in the same manner. He was an avid reader. He always remained thrifty, even after he achieved substantial wealth. In company, Copland could be "almost devilishly droll" and fun-loving. His tact served him well in his private life and in his public life as a moderator, committee man, and teacher. Copland was a constant and diligent worker and a night owl, who composed primarily at the piano and at a relatively slow pace. He was careful in assembling and storing his documents and scores, so he could later find and re-use earlier ideas and themes.

Deciding not to follow the example of his father, a solid Democrat, Copland never enrolled as a member of any political party, but he espoused a general progressive view and had strong ties with numerous colleagues and friends in the Popular Front, including Odets. Copland supported the Communist Party USA
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

 ticket during the 1936 presidential election, at the height of his involvement with The Group Theater, and remained a committed opponent of militarism and the Cold War, which he regarded as having been instigated by the United States. He condemned it as, "almost worse for art than the real thing". Throw the artist "into a mood of suspicion, ill-will, and dread that typifies the cold war attitude and he'll create nothing". In keeping with these attitudes, Copland was a strong supporter of the Presidential candidacy of Henry A. Wallace on the Progressive Party ticket. As a result, he was later investigated by the FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 during the Red scare
McCarthyism
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by...

 of the 1950s and found himself blacklisted
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

.
Copland was included on an FBI list of 151 artists thought to have Communist associations. Joseph McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy
Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957...

 and Roy Cohn
Roy Cohn
Roy Marcus Cohn was an American attorney who became famous during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations into Communist activity in the United States during the Second Red Scare. Cohn gained special prominence during the Army–McCarthy hearings. He was also an important member of the U.S...

 questioned Copland about his lecturing abroad, neglecting completely Copland's works which made a virtue of American values. Outraged by the accusations, many members of the musical community held up Copland's music as a banner of his patriotism. The investigations ceased in 1955 and were closed in 1975. Though taxing of his time, energy, and emotional state, Copland's career and international artistic reputation were not seriously affected by the McCarthy probes. In any case, beginning in 1950, Copland, who had been appalled at Stalin's persecution of Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

 and other artists, began resigning from participation in leftist groups. He decried the lack of artistic freedom in the Soviet Union, and in his 1954 Norton lecture he asserted that loss of freedom under Soviet Communism deprived artists of "the immemorial right of the artist to be wrong." He began to vote Democratic, first for Stevenson and then for Kennedy.

Copland is documented as a gay man in author Howard Pollack's biography, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Like many of his contemporaries he guarded his privacy, especially in regard to his homosexuality, providing very few written details about his private life. However, he was one of the few composers of his stature to live openly and travel with his lovers, most of whom were talented, much younger men. Among Copland's love affairs, most of which lasted for only a few years yet became enduring friendships, were ones with photographer Victor Kraft, artist Alvin Ross, pianist Paul Moor, dancer Erik Johns, and composer John Brodbin Kennedy.

Influences

Copland's earliest musical inclinations as a teenager ran toward Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

, Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

, Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century...

 and the Russian composers. Some of his preferences might also have been formed by the anti-German feelings during World War I, as later he studied German music. Copland's curiosity about the latest music from Debussy and Scriabin
Alexander Scriabin
Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist who initially developed a lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language inspired by the music of Frédéric Chopin. Quite independent of the innovations of Arnold Schoenberg, Scriabin developed an increasingly atonal musical system,...

 was frustrated by the fact that sheet music for "avant-garde" works was expensive at that time and hard to come by. So he borrowed these works from a music library and studied them intensely. Some of his earliest compositions were songs and piano pieces inspired by these European influences.

Copland's teacher and mentor Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor and teacher who taught many composers and performers of the 20th century.From a musical family, she achieved early honours as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, but believing that her talent as a composer was inferior to that of her younger...

 was his most important influence. In gratitude for the immense support and promotion on his behalf, he stated to her in 1950: "I shall count our meeting the most important of my musical life...Whatever I have accomplished is intimately associated in my mind with those early years, and with what you have since been as inspiration and example." Of all her students, she listed Copland first. Copland especially admired Boulanger's total grasp of all classical music, and he was encouraged to experiment and develop a "clarity of conception and elegance in proportion." Following her model, he studied all periods of classical music and all forms—from madrigals to symphonies. This breadth of vision led Copland to compose music for numerous settings—orchestra, opera, solo piano, small ensemble, art song, ballet, theater and film. Boulanger particularly emphasized "la grande ligne" (the long line), "a sense of forward motion...the feeling for inevitability, for the creating of an entire piece that could be thought of as a functioning entity."

In discovering Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

, Copland pointed out: "[Bach has an] inexhaustible wealth of musical riches, which no music lover can afford to ignore...What strikes me most markedly about Bach's work is the marvelous rightness of it. It is the rightness not merely of a single individual, but a whole musical epoch." Copland stated that an ideal music might combine Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

's "spontaneity and refinement" with Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition...

's "purity" and Bach's "profundity".

Copland was excited to be so close to the new post-Impressionistic French music of Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

, Roussel
Albert Roussel
Albert Charles Paul Marie Roussel was a French composer. He spent seven years as a midshipman, turned to music as an adult, and became one of the most prominent French composers of the interwar period...

, and Satie
Erik Satie
Éric Alfred Leslie Satie was a French composer and pianist. Satie was a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde...

, as well as Les six
Les Six
Les six is a name, inspired by The Five, given in 1920 by critic Henri Collet in an article titled "" to a group of six composers working in Montparnasse whose music is often seen as a reaction against the musical style of Richard Wagner and impressionist music.-Members:Formally, the Groupe des...

, a group that included Milhaud
Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality...

, Poulenc
Francis Poulenc
Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc was a French composer and a member of the French group Les six. He composed solo piano music, chamber music, oratorio, choral music, opera, ballet music, and orchestral music...

, and Honegger
Arthur Honegger
Arthur Honegger was a Swiss composer, who was born in France and lived a large part of his life in Paris. He was a member of Les six. His most frequently performed work is probably the orchestral work Pacific 231, which is interpreted as imitating the sound of a steam locomotive.-Biography:Born...

. Webern
Anton Webern
Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. He was a member of the Second Viennese School. As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique; in addition, his innovations regarding schematic organization of...

, Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

, and Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

 also impressed him. Copland was "insatiable" in seeking out the newest European music, whether in concerts, score reading or heated debate. These "moderns" were discarding the old laws of composition and experimenting with new forms, harmonies and rhythms, and including the use of jazz and quarter-tone music. Serge Koussevitzky
Serge Koussevitzky
Serge Koussevitzky , was a Russian-born Jewish conductor, composer and double-bassist, known for his long tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949.-Early career:...

 had just arrived in Paris and was adding to the ferment by conducting and promoting the new music of Russia and France. Later he would conduct many Copland premieres in New York. Among the first performances that Copland attended was Milhaud's La création du monde
La Création du Monde
The composition La création du monde, Op. 81a, is a 20-minute-long ballet with music composed by Darius Milhaud, in 1922-1923,which outlines the Creation of the World, based on African folk mythology.- History :...

, which caused riots in Paris. Milhaud was Copland's inspiration for some of his earlier "jazzy" works. He was also exposed to Schoenberg and admired his earlier atonal pieces, thinking Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire
Pierrot Lunaire
Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds 'Pierrot lunaire' , commonly known simply as Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 , is a melodrama by Arnold Schoenberg...

a landmark work comparable to Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring, original French title Le sacre du printemps , is a ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky; choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky; and concept, set design and costumes by Nicholas Roerich...

." Copland even tried out Schoenberg's innovative twelve-tone system and adapted it to his style.

Above all others, Copland named Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 as his "hero" and his favorite twentieth century composer. Stravinsky was in many ways his premiere model. Stravinsky's rhythm and vitality is apparent in many of his works. Copland especially admired Stravinsky's "jagged and uncouth rhythmic effects," "bold use of dissonance," and "hard, dry, crackling sonority." Copland was similarly but not quite as strongly impressed by Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

's "fresh, clean-cut, articulate style."

Another inspiration for much of Copland's music was jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

. Although familiar with jazz back in America—having listened to it and also played it in bands—he fully realized its potential while traveling in Austria: "The impression of jazz one receives in a foreign country is totally unlike the impression of such music heard in one's own country...when I heard jazz played in Vienna, it was like hearing it for the first time." He also found that the distance from his native country helped him see the United States more clearly. Beginning in 1923, he employed "jazzy elements" in his classical music, but by the late 1930s, he moved on to Latin and American folk tunes in his more successful pieces. His earlier works especially demonstrate the influence of jazz rhythmic, timbral and harmonic practices. That influence is apparent in a few later works, such as the Clarinet Concerto commissioned by Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

. During the late 1920s and 1930s, Copland sought out jazz at the Cotton Club and heard Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

, Benny Carter
Benny Carter
Bennett Lester Carter was an American jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He was a major figure in jazz from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was recognized as such by other jazz musicians who called him King...

 and Bix Beiderbecke
Bix Beiderbecke
Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer.With Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s...

, among others. Of Duke Ellington among other jazz composers, Copland said he was "the master of them all."

Although Copland was intrigued by the idea of a "jazz concerto" and "symphonic jazz," his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra did not succeed in that form as had those of Maurice Ravel and George Gershwin, who was praised by such eminent musical exiles as Schoenberg, Bartók, and Stravinsky (Gershwin had recently died at 38 and so was no longer a potential rival). Copland would go on to write extensively and deliver the Norton lectures about jazz in America, especially the Big Band sound (1930s) and Cool West Coast Jazz (1950s). Yet, enthusiastic as he was about jazz throughout his life, Copland also recognized its limitations:
"With the [Piano] Concerto I felt I had done all I could with the idiom, considering its limited emotional scope. True, it was an easy way to be American in musical terms, but all American music could not possibly be confined to two dominant jazz moods – the blues and the snappy number."


Although his early focus of jazz gave way to other influences, Copland continued to make use of jazz in more subtle ways in later works. But it was the synthesizing of all his influences and inclinations which create the "Americanism" of his music. Copland pointed out in summarizing the American character of his music, "the optimistic tone", "his love of rather large canvases", "a certain directness in expression of sentiment", and "a certain songfulness". As he advanced in his career (by 1941), he said of himself and advised other composers:
"I no longer feel the need of seeking out conscious Americanisms [folksongs and folk rhythms]. Because we live here and work here, we can be certain that when our music is mature it will also be American in quality."
In contradiction to this statement, however, he continued to look for and employ folk material for several more years.

Copland's work from the late 1940s onward included experimentation with Schönberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

's twelve-tone system, resulting in two major works, the Piano Quartet (1950) and the Piano Fantasy (1957).

Early work

Copland's earliest compositions before leaving for Paris were short works for piano and some art song
Art song
An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one voice with piano or orchestral accompaniment. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the genre of such songs....

s, inspired mostly by Liszt and Debussy. He experimented with ambiguous beginnings and endings, rapid key changes, and the frequent use of tritones. His first published work was The Cat and the Mouse
The Old Cat and the Young Mouse
The Old Cat and the Young Mouse is a late fable by Jean de la Fontaine . Written towards the end of his life, its grim conclusion is that 'Youth thinks its every wish will gain success; Old age is pitiless.'...

 (1920), a piano solo piece based on a fable by Jean de la Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional...

. In Three Moods (1921), Copland's final movement is entitled "Jazzy", which he noted "is based on two jazz melodies and ought to make the old professors sit up and take notice".

One of Copland's first significant works upon returning from his studies in Paris was the necromantic
Necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

 ballet Grohg. This ballet, suggested to Copland by the film Nosferatu, a free adaptation of the Dracula
Dracula
Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor...

 tale, provided the source material for his later Dance Symphony. Originally intended as an orchestral exercise while he was studying in Paris, Copland completed it as a full orchestral score after returning to New York in 1925. It too had "jazz elements" as did many of Copland's works in the 1920s.

Copland's Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1924) brought him into contact with Serge Koussevitzky
Serge Koussevitzky
Serge Koussevitzky , was a Russian-born Jewish conductor, composer and double-bassist, known for his long tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949.-Early career:...

, a conductor known as a champion of "new music", and another figure who would prove to be influential in Copland's life, perhaps the second most important after Boulanger. Koussevitzky performed twelve Copland works during his tenure as conductor of the Boston Symphony. Copland's relationship with Koussevitzky was apparently unique, as his interpretations of Copland's works reflected the particular admiration that the latter had for the young composer. Copland's Music for the Theatre (1925) and the Piano Concerto (1926) were both composed for Koussevitzky.

Other major works of his first period include the Piano Variations (1930), and the Short Symphony (1933). However, this jazz-inspired period was relatively brief, as his style evolved toward the goal of writing more accessible works using folk sources.

Popular works

Impressed with the success of Virgil Thomson's "Four Saints in Three Acts", Copland wrote El Salón México
El Salón México
El Salón México is a symphonic composition in one movement by Aaron Copland, which uses Mexican folk music extensively.-Analysis and history:...

between 1932 and 1936, which met with a popular acclaim that contrasted the relative obscurity of most of his previous works. It appears he intended it to be a popular favorite, as he wrote in 1927: "It seems a long, long time since anyone has written an Espana or a Bolero
Boléro
Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel . Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is Ravel's most famous musical composition....

—the kind of brilliant piece that everyone loves." Copland derived freely from two collections of Mexican folk tunes, changing pitches and varying rhythms. The use of a folk tune with variations set in a symphonic context started a pattern he repeated in many of his most successful works right on through the 1940s. This work also marked the return of jazz patterns to Copland's compositional style, though they appeared in a more subdued form than before and were no longer the centerpiece. Chávez conducted the premiere, and El Salón México
El Salón México
El Salón México is a symphonic composition in one movement by Aaron Copland, which uses Mexican folk music extensively.-Analysis and history:...

became an international hit, gaining Copland wide recognition.

Copland achieved his first major success in ballet music with his groundbreaking score Billy the Kid, based on a Walter Noble Burns novel, with choreography by Eugene Loring. The ballet was among the first to display an American music and dance vocabulary, adapting the "strong technique and intense charm of Astaire" and other American dancers. It was distinctive in its use of polyrhythm
Polyrhythm
Polyrhythm is the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms.Polyrhythm in general is a nonspecific term for the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conflicting rhythms, of which cross-rhythm is a specific and definable subset.—Novotney Polyrhythms can be distinguished from...

 and polyharmony, particularly in the cowboy songs. The ballet premiered in New York in 1939, with Copland recalling "I cannot remember another work of mine that was so unanimously received." John Martin
John Martin (dance critic)
John Martin became America’s first major dance critic in 1927. Focusing his efforts on propelling the modern dance movement, he greatly influenced the careers of dancers such as Martha Graham...

 wrote, "Aaron Copland has furnished an admirable score, warm and human, and with not a wasted note about it anywhere." It became a staple work of the American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre , based in New York City, was one of the foremost ballet companies of the 20th century. It continues as a leading dance company in the world today...

, and Copland's twenty minute suite from the ballet became part of the standard orchestral repertoire. When asked how a Jewish New Yorker managed so well to capture the Old West, Copland answered "It was just a feat of imagination."

In the early 1940s, Copland produced two important works intended as national morale boosters. Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man is a 20th-century American classical music work by American composer Aaron Copland. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. It was inspired in part by a famous speech made earlier in the same year where vice...

, scored for brass
Brass instrument
A brass instrument is a musical instrument whose sound is produced by sympathetic vibration of air in a tubular resonator in sympathy with the vibration of the player's lips...

 and percussion, was written in 1942 at the request of the conductor Eugene Goossens
Eugène Aynsley Goossens
Sir Eugene Aynsley Goossens was an English conductor and composer.-Biography:He was born in Camden Town, London, the son of the Belgian conductor and violinist Eugène Goossens and the grandson of the conductor Eugène Goossens...

, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
As the fifth oldest orchestra in the United States, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has a legacy of fine music making as reflected in its performances in historic Music Hall, recordings, and international tours...

. It would later be used to open many Democratic National Conventions, and to add dignity to a wide range of other events. Even musical groups from Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woodrow Charles Herman , known as Woody Herman, was an American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and big band leader. Leading various groups called "The Herd," Herman was one of the most popular of the 1930s and '40s bandleaders...

's jazz band to the Rolling Stones adapted the opening theme. Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, also known as ELP, are an English progressive rock supergroup. They found success in the 1970s and sold over forty million albums and headlined large stadium concerts. The band consists of Keith Emerson , Greg Lake and Carl Palmer...

 recorded a "prog rock" version of the composition in 1977. The fanfare
Fanfare
A Fanfare is a relatively short piece of music that is typically played by trumpets and other brass instruments often accompanied by percussion...

 was also used as the main theme of the fourth movement of Copland's Third Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Copland)
Symphony No. 3 was Aaron Copland's third and final symphony, its premiere performance taking place on October 18, 1946, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky.It was written at the end of World War II...

,
where it first appears in a quiet, pastoral manner, then in the brassier form of the original. In the same year, Copland wrote A Lincoln Portrait, a commission from conductor André Kostelanetz
Andre Kostelanetz
André Kostelanetz was a popular orchestral music conductor and arranger, one of the pioneers of easy listening music.-Biography:...

, leading to a further strengthening of his association with American patriotic music. The work is famous for the spoken recitation of Lincoln's words, though the idea had been previously employed by John Alden Carpenter
John Alden Carpenter
John Alden Carpenter was an American composer.-Biography:Born in Park Ridge, Illinois, Carpenter was raised in a musical household. He was educated at Harvard University, where he studied under John Knowles Paine, and was president of the Glee Club and wrote music for the Hasty-Pudding Club...

's "Song of Faith" based on George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

's quotations. "Lincoln Portrait" is often performed at national holiday celebrations. Many Americans have performed the recitation, including politicians, actors, and musicians and Copland himself, with Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
Henry Jaynes Fonda was an American film and stage actor.Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor. He also appeared in 1938 in plays performed in White Plains, New York, with Joan Tompkins...

 doing the most notable recording.

Continuing his string of successes, in 1942 Copland composed the ballet Rodeo, a tale of a ranch wedding, written around the same time as Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portrait is a classical orchestral work written by the American composer Aaron Copland. The work involves a full orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass section at climactic moments. The work is narrated with the reading of excerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great documents, including...

. Rodeo is another enduring composition for Copland and contains many recognizable folk tunes, well-blended with Copland's original music. Notable in the final movement, is the striking "Hoedown". This was a recreation of Appalachian fiddler W. M. Stepp's version of the square-dance tune "Bonypart" ("Bonapart's Retreat"), which had been transcribed for piano by Ruth Crawford Seeger
Ruth Crawford Seeger
Ruth Crawford Seeger , born Ruth Porter Crawford, was a modernist composer and an American folk music specialist.-Life:...

 and published in Alan Lomax and Seeger's book, Our Singing Country (1941). For the "Hoedown" in Rodeo Copland borrowed note for note from Seeger's piano transcription of Stepp's tune. This fragment (lifted from Ruth Crawford Seeger) is now one of the best-known compositions by any American composer, having been used numerous times in movies and on television, including commercials for the American beef industry. The ballet, originally titled "The Courting at Burnt Ranch", was choreographed by Agnes de Mille
Agnes de Mille
Agnes George de Mille was an American dancer and choreographer.-Early years:Agnes de Mille was born in New York City into a well-connected family of theater professionals. Her father William C. deMille and her uncle Cecil B. DeMille were both Hollywood directors...

, niece of film giant Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. He was renowned for the flamboyance and showmanship of his movies...

. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 on October 16, 1942 with de Mille dancing the principal "cowgirl" role and the performance received a standing ovation. A reduced score is still popular as an orchestral piece, especially at "Pops" concerts.

Copland was commissioned to write another ballet, Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring is a modern score composed by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite...

, originally written using thirteen instruments, which he ultimately arranged as a popular orchestral suite. The commission for Appalachian Spring came from Martha Graham
Martha Graham
Martha Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Picasso had on modern visual arts, Stravinsky had on music, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture.She danced and choreographed for over seventy years...

, who had requested of Copland merely "music for an American ballet". Copland titled the piece "Ballet for Martha", having no idea of how she would use it on stage but he had her in mind. "When I wrote ‘Appalachian Spring’ I was thinking primarily about Martha and her unique choreographic style, which I knew well…And she's unquestionably very American: there's something prim and restrained, simple yet strong, about her which one tends to think of as American." Copland borrowed the flavor of Shaker songs and dances, and directly used the dance song Simple Gifts
Simple Gifts
"Simple Gifts" is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.It has endured many inaccurate descriptions. Though often classified as an anonymous Shaker hymn or as a work song, it is better classified as a dance song.-Lyrics:...

. Graham took the score and created a ballet she called Appalachian Spring (from a poem by Hart Crane
Hart Crane
-Career:Throughout the early 1920s, small but well-respected literary magazines published some of Crane’s lyrics, gaining him, among the avant-garde, a respect that White Buildings , his first volume, ratified and strengthened...

 which had no connection with Shakers). It was an instant success, and the music later acquired the same name. Copland was amused and delighted later in life when people would come up to him and say: "Mr. Copland, when I see that ballet and when I hear your music I can see the Appalachians and just feel spring." Copland had no particular setting in mind while writing the music, he just tried to give it an American flavor, and had no knowledge of the borrowed title.

Symphonic works

Copland composed three numbered symphonies, but applied the word "symphony" to more than just symphonies of typical structure. He rewrote his early three-movement Organ Symphony omitting the organ, calling the result his First Symphony. His fifteen-minute Short Symphony was the Second Symphony, though it also exists as the Sextet. His Dance Symphony was hurriedly extracted from the earlier unproduced ballet Grohg to meet an RCA Records
RCA Records
RCA Records is one of the flagship labels of Sony Music Entertainment. The RCA initials stand for Radio Corporation of America , which was the parent corporation from 1929 to 1985 and a partner from 1985 to 1986.RCA's Canadian unit is Sony's oldest label...

 commission deadline.

The Third Symphony is in the more traditional format (four movements; second movement, scherzo; third movement, adagio) and is his most famous symphony. At forty minutes, it is his longest orchestral composition. He composed it with Koussevitzky's unique character in mind, "I knew exactly the kind of music he enjoyed conducting and the sentiments he brought with it, and I knew the sound of his orchestra, so I had every reason to do my darnedest to write a symphony in the grand manner." Among the details of interest in the work is Copland's use of palindromic structure—whole movements as well as melodies end as they began. Completing the work after World War II was won by the Allies, he stated that the symphony was "intended to reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time." The work received generally strong acclaim. Koussevitzky "declared it simply the greatest American symphony ever written." Arthur Berger stated that it achieved "a kind of panorama of all the musical resources that have through the years formed his musical language." While Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

 "deemed it the epitome of a decades-long search by many composers for a distinctly American music." It is the best known, most performed, and most recorded American symphony of the 20th Century.

Later work

Copland's work in the late 1940s and 1950s included use of Schönberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

's twelve-tone system, a development that he recognized as important, but which he did not fully embrace. His first result was his "Piano Quartet" (1950). However, he found the atonality of serialized music to run counter to his desire to reach a wide audience. So, in contrast to the Second Viennese School, Copland's use of the system emphasized the importance of the "classicalizing principles", in order to prevent the material from falling into "near-chaos".

In 1951, Copland undertook one of his most challenging works, the "Piano Fantasy" (1957) which he labored over for several years. It was a commission for the young virtuoso pianist William Kapell
William Kapell
William Kapell was an outstanding American pianist who was killed in the crash of a commercial airliner.-Biography:...

, who died in an airplane crash in 1953 during the years of the work's development. The piece adapted the twelve-tone system as a ten-note row, reserving the last two notes as a tonal resolution and anchor. Critics lauded the effort, calling the piece "an outstanding addition to his own oeuvre and to contemporary piano literature" and "a tremendous achievement". Jay Rosenfield stated, "This is a new Copland to us, an artist advancing with strength and not building on the past alone."

Other late works include: "Dance Panels" (1959, ballet music), "Something Wild" (1961, his last film score)(much of which would be later incorporated into his "Music for a Great City"), "Connotations" (1962, for the new Lincoln Center Philharmonic hall), "Emblems" (1964, for wind band), "Night Thoughts" (1972, for the Van Cliburn
Van Cliburn
Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn Jr. is an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 at age 23, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War....

 Piano Competition), and "Proclamation’" (1982, his last work, started in 1973).

Film composer

By the 1930s, Hollywood began to beckon "serious" composers with promises of better films and higher pay. The reality, however, was that few found good projects. Copland sought to enter that arena, as both a challenge for his abilities as a composer and an opportunity to expand his reputation and audience for his more serious works. Unlike the total attention he would hope to get from a concert-goer, Copland wrote that film music had to achieve a balance. It should be "secondary in importance to the story being told on the screen" while notably adding to the dramatic and emotional content of the film—but without diverting the viewer's attention from the action.

Upon arriving in Hollywood in 1937, he had high hopes: "It is just a matter of finding a feature film that needs my kind of music." What he found, however, was the ongoing tendency of studios to edit and cut movie scores, which often subverted a composer's intentions. No projects seemed suitable at first. But his patience paid off two years later when Copland found a kindred spirit in director Lewis Milestone, who allowed Copland to supervise his own orchestration and who refrained from interfering with his work. Copland composed three of his five film scores for Milestone.

This collaboration resulted in the notable film Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men (1939 film)
Of Mice and Men is a 1939 film based on the novella of the same title by American author John Steinbeck. It stars Burgess Meredith, Betty Field, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, Bob Steele and Noah Beery, Jr...

(1939), from the novel by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

, that earned Copland his first nomination for an Academy Award ( he actually received two nominations, one for "best score" and another for "original score"). He considered himself lucky with his first film score: "Here was an American theme, by a great American writer, demanding appropriate music." Having accepted small sums for other projects in the past, especially to help out cash-strapped productions involving friends, this time Copland would capitalize on his efforts: "I thought if I was to sell myself to the movies, I ought to sell myself good." From then on, he became one of Hollywood's highest paid film composers, earning as much as $15,000 per film.

In a departure from other film scores of the time, Copland's work largely reflected his own style, instead of the usual borrowing from the late-Romantic period. Many silent and early talking films used classical music themes directly, both in the credit sequences and during the action. But with Copland, the film score's purpose was more comprehensive and subtle, setting the atmosphere of time and place, illustrating the thoughts of the actors, providing continuity and filler, and shaping the emotion and drama. He often avoided the full orchestra, and he rejected the common practice of using a leitmotiv to identify characters with their own personal themes. He instead matched a theme to the action, while avoiding the underlining of every action with exaggerated emphasis.

Another technique Copland employed was to keep silent during intimate screen moments and only begin the music as a confirming motive toward the end of a scene. Virgil Thompson
Virgil Thompson
Virgil Thompson is an American author. Her first published novel was the 2002 crime drama Final Things: A Novel of Suspense. She lives in Connecticut.-Bibliography:...

 wrote that the score for "Of Mice and Men" established "the most distinguished populist musical style yet created in America." Many composers who scored for western movies, particularly between 1940 and 1960, were influenced by Copland's style, though some also followed the "Max Steiner" approach, which was more bombastic and obvious. As a commentator on film scores, Copland singled out Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann was an American composer noted for his work in motion pictures.An Academy Award-winner , Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo...

, Miklós Rózsa
Miklós Rózsa
Miklós Rózsa was a Hungarian-born composer trained in Germany , and active in France , England , and the United States , with extensive sojourns in Italy from 1953...

, Alex North
Alex North
Alex North was an American composer who wrote the first jazz-based film score and one of the first modernist scores written in Hollywood ....

 and Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was an Austro-Hungarian film and romantic music composer. While his compositional style was considered well out of vogue at the time he died, his music has more recently undergone a reevaluation and a gradual reawakening of interest...

 as innovative leaders in the field.

Copland's score for The North Star
The North Star (1943 film)
The North Star is a 1943 war film produced and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. It was directed by Lewis Milestone and written by Lillian Hellman. The film starred Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston, Walter Brennan and Erich von Stroheim...

(1943) was nominated for an Academy Award, and his score for William Wyler's 1949 film, The Heiress
The Heiress
The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film. It was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play of the same title that was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film was directed by William Wyler, with starring performances by Olivia de Havilland as...

won the award. Several themes from his scores are incorporated in the suite Music for Movies. His score for the film adaptation of John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

's novel The Red Pony
The Red Pony (Copland)
The Red Pony is a film score composed for Lewis Milestone's 1949 production which used John Steinbeck's screenplay based on his short stories The Red Pony...

was arranged by commission of the Houston Symphony Orchestra
Houston Symphony Orchestra
The Houston Symphony is an American orchestra based in Houston, Texas. Since 1966, it has performed at the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in downtown Houston....

 as a suite for their performance in October 1948 and became widely popular. His score for the 1961 independent film
Independent film
An independent film, or indie film, is a professional film production resulting in a feature film that is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system. In addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies, independent films are also produced...

 Something Wild
Something Wild (1961 film)
Something Wild was a 1961 independent film, starring Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker and directed by Jack Garfein, who was Baker's husband at the time....

was released in 1964 as Music For a Great City. Copland also composed scores for two documentary films, The City (1939) and The Cummington Story (1945).

When commenting on the effectiveness of film scores, Copland said: "I'd love to be able to have audiences see a film with the music, then see it a second time with the music turned off, and then see it a third time with the music turned on. Then, I think they'd get a much more specific idea of what the music does for a film.".

Critic, writer, and teacher

Starting with his first critiques in 1924, Copland began a long career as music critic, teacher, and observer, mostly of contemporary classical music. He was an avid lecturer and lecturer-performer. He wrote reviews of specific works, trends, composers, festivals, books about music, and recordings. He took on a wide range of issues from the most general ("Creativity") to the most practical ("Composer Economics"). Copland also wrote three books, "What to Listen for in Music (1939)", "Our New Music (1941)", and "Music and Imagination" (1952). He had a long list of notable students (see below). Copland put a good deal of time and energy into supporting young musicians, especially through his association with the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, both as a guest conductor and teacher. In working with young composers, Copland thought it more important to focus on expressive content than on technical points.

Conductor

Copland studied conducting in Paris in 1921, but not until his involvement conducting his own Hollywood scores, did he undertake it except out of necessity. On his international travels in the 1940s, however, he began to make appearances as a guest conductor, performing his own works. By the 1950s, he was conducting the works of other composers as well. From the 1960s on, he conducted far more than he composed.

A self-taught conductor, Copland developed a very personal style. He occasionally asked friend Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

 for advice. Copland took an understated and unpretentious approach to conducting and modeled his style after other composer/conductors such as Stravinsky and Hindemith. Observers of Copland noted that he had "none of the typical conductorial vanities". Though his friendly and modest persona, and his great enthusiasm, were appreciated by professional orchestra musicians, some criticized his beat as "unsteady" and his interpretations as "unexciting". Some of his peers, like Koussevitzky, went even further, advising him to "stay home and compose". Copland thoroughly enjoyed conducting but admitted that he did it in part because in the last seventeen years of his life he felt little inspiration to compose. He was offered "permanent" conducting posts but preferred to operate as a guest conductor. Nearly all of Copland's conducting appearances included his own works, which added to the intoxication of conducting. As he stated, "Conducting puts one in a very powerful position…Best of all, it is a use of power for a good purpose." It also allowed him the freedom to travel which he always enjoyed.

Copland was a strong advocate for newer music and composers, and his programs always included heavy representation of 20th century music and lesser-known composers. Performers and audiences generally greeted his conducting appearances as positive opportunities to hear his music as the composer intended, but sometimes found his efforts with other composers to be lacking. From Copland's point of view, he found both the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra to be "tough" groups, resistant to newer music. Newton Mansfield, violinist with the New York Philharmonic, stated, "The orchestra didn’t take him too seriously. It was like going out to a nice lunch." Copland also found resistance from European orchestras; however, he was warmly received and respected in England. Copland recorded nearly all his orchestral works with himself conducting.

Awards

  • On September 14, 1964, Aaron Copland was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
    Presidential Medal of Freedom
    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

     by President Lyndon Johnson.
  • In honor of Copland's vast influence on American music, on December 15, 1970 he was awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit. Beginning in 1964, this award "established to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression."
  • Copland was awarded the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize in composition for Appalachian Spring. His scores for Of Mice and Men (1939), Our Town (1940), and The North Star (1943) all received Academy Award nominations, while The Heiress
    The Heiress
    The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film. It was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play of the same title that was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film was directed by William Wyler, with starring performances by Olivia de Havilland as...

    won Best Music in 1950.
  • He was a recipient of Yale University
    Yale University
    Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

    's Sanford Medal.
  • In 1986, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts
    National Medal of Arts
    The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

    .
  • He was awarded a special Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress
    United States Congress
    The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

     in 1987.
  • He was made an honorary member of the Alpha Epsilon chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in 1961 and was awarded the fraternity's Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award
    Charles E. Lutton Man Of Music Award
    The Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award is one of the highest honors awarded to members of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity for a lifelong achievement in uplifting the world through art and music. Its recipients include musical legends such as Aaron Copland, W. Francis McBeth, James Levine,...

     in 1970.

Notable students

  • Samuel Adler
    Samuel Adler (composer)
    Samuel Hans Adler is an American composer and conductor.-Biography:Adler was born to a Jewish family in Mannheim, Germany, the son of Hugo Chaim Adler, a cantor and composer, and Selma Adler. The family fled to the United States in 1939, where Hugo became the cantor of Temple Emanuel in...

  • Norma Beecroft
    Norma Beecroft
    Norma Marian Beecroft is a Canadian composer, producer, broadcaster, and arts administrator. A member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, she twice won the Canada Council's Lynch-Staunton Award for composition...

  • Elmer Bernstein
    Elmer Bernstein
    Elmer Bernstein was an American composer and conductor best known for his many film scores. In a career which spanned fifty years, he composed music for hundreds of film and television productions...

  • Paul Bowles
    Paul Bowles
    Paul Frederic Bowles was an American expatriate composer, author, and translator.Following a cultured middle-class upbringing in New York City, during which he displayed a talent for music and writing, Bowles pursued his education at the University of Virginia before making various trips to Paris...

  • Mario Davidovsky
    Mario Davidovsky
    Mario Davidovsky is an Argentine-American composer. Born in Argentina, he emigrated in 1960 to the US, where he lives today...

  • Jacob Druckman
    Jacob Druckman
    Jacob Druckman was an American composer born in Philadelphia. A graduate of the Juilliard School, Druckman studied with Vincent Persichetti, Peter Mennin, and Bernard Wagenaar. In 1949 and 1950 he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood and later continued his studies at the École Normale de...

  • Halim El-Dabh
    Halim El-Dabh
    Halim Abdul Messieh El-Dabh is an Egyptian-born American composer, performer, ethnomusicologist, and educator, who has had a career spanning six decades...

  • Alberto Ginastera
    Alberto Ginastera
    Alberto Evaristo Ginastera was an Argentine composer of classical music. He is considered one of the most important Latin American classical composers.- Biography :...


  • Alvin Lucier
    Alvin Lucier
    Alvin Lucier is an American composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. A long-time music professor at Wesleyan University, Lucier was a member of the influential Sonic Arts Union, which included Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and...

  • José Pablo Moncayo
    José Pablo Moncayo
    José Pablo Moncayo García was a Mexican pianist, percussionist, music teacher, composer and conductor. "As composer, José Pablo Moncayo represents one of the most important legacies of the Mexican nationalism in art music, after Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chávez." He produced some of the...

  • Juan Orrego-Salas
    Juan Orrego-Salas
    Juan Antonio Orrego Salas is a Chilean composer of contemporary classical music and musicologist.He was a student of Randall Thompson and Aaron Copland in the United States, and later he settled in that country in the early 1960s to work at Indiana University, where he co-founded the Latin...

  • Einojuhani Rautavaara
    Einojuhani Rautavaara
    Einojuhani Rautavaara is a Finnish composer of contemporary classical music, and is one of the most notable Finnish composers after Jean Sibelius.-Life:...

  • Michael Tilson Thomas
    Michael Tilson Thomas
    Michael Tilson Thomas is an American conductor, pianist and composer. He is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony, and artistic director of the New World Symphony Orchestra.-Early years:...

  • Douglas Townsend
    Douglas Townsend
    Douglas Townsend is an American composer and musicologist who became interested in composition while a student at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, in New York City, and taught himself composition, counterpoint and orchestration...

  • Lester Trimble
    Lester Trimble
    Lester Albert Trimble was an American music critic and composer of contemporary classical music....



Selected works

  • Scherzo Humoristique: The Cat and the Mouse (1920)
  • Four Motets (1921)
  • Passacaglia (piano solo) (1922)
  • Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1924)
  • Music for the Theater (1925)
  • Dance Symphony (1925)
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1926)
  • Symphonic Ode (1927–1929)
  • Piano Variations (1930)
  • Grohg (1925/32) (ballet
    Ballet (music)
    Ballet as a music form progressed from simply a complement to dance, to a concrete compositional form that often had as much value as the dance that went along with it. The dance form, originating in France during the 17th century, began as a theatrical dance. It was not until the 19th century that...

    )
  • Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2) (1931–33)
  • Statements for orchestra (1932–35)
  • The Second Hurricane, play-opera for high school performance (1936)
  • El Salón México
    El Salón México
    El Salón México is a symphonic composition in one movement by Aaron Copland, which uses Mexican folk music extensively.-Analysis and history:...

    (1936)
  • Billy the Kid
    Billy the Kid (ballet)
    Billy the Kid is a 1938 ballet written by the American composer Aaron Copland and commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein. It was choreographed by Eugene Loring for Ballet Caravan. Along with Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, it is one of Copland's most popular and widely performed pieces...

    (1938) (ballet)
  • Quiet City
    Quiet City (music)
    Quiet City is a well-known composition for trumpet, cor anglais, and string orchestra by Aaron Copland.In 1940, Copland wrote incidental music for the play Quiet City by Irwin Shaw. The next year he knitted some of it into a ten-minute piece composition designed to be performed independently of the...

    (1940)
  • Our Town (1940)
  • Piano Sonata (1939–41)
  • An Outdoor Overture, written for high school orchestras (1938) and transcribed for wind band (1941)
  • Fanfare for the Common Man
    Fanfare for the Common Man
    Fanfare for the Common Man is a 20th-century American classical music work by American composer Aaron Copland. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. It was inspired in part by a famous speech made earlier in the same year where vice...

    (1942)
  • Lincoln Portrait
    Lincoln Portrait
    Lincoln Portrait is a classical orchestral work written by the American composer Aaron Copland. The work involves a full orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass section at climactic moments. The work is narrated with the reading of excerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great documents, including...

    (1942)
  • Rodeo (1942) (ballet)
  • Danzon Cubano (1942)

  • Music for the Movies (1942)
  • Sonata for violin and piano (1943)
  • Appalachian Spring
    Appalachian Spring
    Appalachian Spring is a modern score composed by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite...

    (1944) (ballet)
  • Third Symphony
    Symphony No. 3 (Copland)
    Symphony No. 3 was Aaron Copland's third and final symphony, its premiere performance taking place on October 18, 1946, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitsky.It was written at the end of World War II...

    (1944–1946)
  • In the Beginning (1947)
  • The Red Pony
    The Red Pony (Copland)
    The Red Pony is a film score composed for Lewis Milestone's 1949 production which used John Steinbeck's screenplay based on his short stories The Red Pony...

    (1948)
  • Clarinet Concerto
    Clarinet Concerto (Copland)
    Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto was written between 1947 and 1949, although a first version was already available in 1948. This composition is also sometimes referred to as the Concerto for Clarinet, Strings and Harp...

    (commissioned by Benny Goodman
    Benny Goodman
    Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

    ) (1947–1948)
  • Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson
    Emily Dickinson
    Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life...

    (1950)
  • Piano Quartet (1950)
  • Old American Songs
    Old American Songs
    Old American Songs are two sets of songs arranged by Aaron Copland in 1950 and 1952 respectively. Originally scored for voice and piano, they were reworked for baritone and orchestra....

    (1952)
  • The Tender Land
    The Tender Land
    The Tender Land is an opera with music by Aaron Copland and libretto by Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. The opera tells of a farm family in the Midwest of the United States. Copland was inspired to write this opera after viewing the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and...

    (1954) (opera)
  • Canticle of Freedom (1955)
  • Orchestral Variations (orchestration of Piano Variations) (1957)
  • Piano Fantasy (1957)
  • Dance Panels (1959; revised 1962) (ballet)
  • Connotations
    Connotations For Orchestra
    Connotations For Orchestra or sometimes simply Connotations is a piece for orchestra by Aaron Copland. The piece was commissioned by Leonard Bernstein in 1962 to commemorate the opening of Philharmonic Hall, now Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, United...

    (1962)
  • Down A Country Lane (1962)
  • Music for a Great City (1964) (based on his score of the 1961 film Something Wild
    Something Wild (1961 film)
    Something Wild was a 1961 independent film, starring Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker and directed by Jack Garfein, who was Baker's husband at the time....

    )
  • Emblems, for wind band (1964)
  • Inscape (1967)
  • Duo for flute and piano (1971)
  • Three Latin American Sketches (1972)


Film

  • Aaron Copland: A Self-Portrait (1985). Directed by Allan Miller. Biographies in Music series. Princeton, New Jersey: The Humanities.
  • Appalachian Spring (1996). Directed by Graham Strong, Scottish Television Enterprises. Princeton, New Jersey: Films for the Humanities.
  • Copland Portrait (1975). Directed by Terry Sanders, United States Information Agency. Santa Monica, California: American Film Foundation.
  • Fanfare for America: The Composer Aaron Copland (2001). Directed by Andreas Skipis. Produced by Hessischer Rundfunk in association with Reiner Moritz Associates. Princeton, New Jersey: Films for the Humanities & Sciences.

Written works

  • Copland, Aaron (1939; Revised 1957), What to Listen For in Music, New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company
    McGraw-Hill
    The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., is a publicly traded corporation headquartered in Rockefeller Center in New York City. Its primary areas of business are financial, education, publishing, broadcasting, and business services...

    , reprinted many times.
  • Copland, Aaron (2006). Music and Imagination, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    . ISBN 978-0-674-58915-5

External links



Listening
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