Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Composer Study - Aaron Copland

This month Sophia and Olivia learned about and listened to six pieces written by Aaron Copland.


Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer; composition teacher; writer; and conductor of his own and other American music.

According to Wikipedia, "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."

When Copland returned to the United States, he was determined to make his way as a full-time composer. He rented a studio apartment on New York City's Upper West Side, which kept him close to Carnegie Hall and other musical publishers and venues. He stayed 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 Fellowships—one in 1925 and one in 1926. Wikipedia continued, "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."

In 1939, Copland received large commissions for two Hollywood film scores: Of Mice and Men and Our Town. He also began composing music for ballet, including his very successful Billy the Kid (1939).

The 1940s were Copland's most productive years, and this was when he became most notable throughout the world. His two ballet scores for Rodeo (1942) and Appalachian Spring (1944) were huge successes. His pieces Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man are now patriotic standards. Equally important was the Third Symphony that he composed from 1944 to 1946, and which became Copland's best-known symphony.

Wikipedia noted that, "Copland exerted a major influence on the compositional style of an entire generation of American composers, including his friend and protégé Leonard Bernstein. 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."

Sophia and Olivia's Response to 6 of Aaron Copland's Compositions

Danzon Cubano

=> Sophia said, "It was interesting. I like how the music went together. It reminded me of a Christmas song, but with a Christmas scene."

=> Olivia said, "It was really good. I liked it. I liked the percussion instruments."

Billy in Prison (from Billy the Kid)

=> Sophia said, "It's okay. I liked the first one better."

=> Olivia said, "It's okay. It's too quiet."

Allegro: Solo Dance of the Bride (from Appalachian Spring)

=> Sophia said, "It's great! It's quick. I like all the instruments."

=> Olivia said, "I like this one because it's fast and you can hear the percussion instruments."

Allegro (from Appalachian Spring)

=> Sophia said, "It's okay. It's just not my favorite."

=> Olivia said, "It's fast, but not as loud. It's okay."

Fanfare for the Common Man

(Note from the CD jacket: This was his most famous work. It was written in 1942 and intended as a spirit-raiser for the American forces during WWII.)

=> Sophia said, "It raises your spirits. It's joyful!"

=> Olivia said, "I liked that one! It's very good. It's loud."

The introduction - the first 1 minute and 40 seconds out of the 3 minute and 39 second piece - was the favorite part for both of the girls.

Circus Music (from the Red Pony Suite)

=> Sophia said, "Where have I heard this? I like this one. It's quick and lively. You'd hear it in a band. Well, maybe not a band. People play marches..not a song like this. I think of Mary Poppins.

=> Olivia said, "I like this one. It sounds like a band. It's fast.

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