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Composer Of The Month - Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was an American composer, conductor, and music educator. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential composers of American classical music in the 20th century. Copland's music is known for its distinctly American character and is often associated with the American frontier, landscapes, and folk traditions. Over the course of this month we’ll go into more detail about his works and life but or now…


  • Early Life and Education:

    • Aaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900, in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrant parents. He displayed an early interest in music and began taking piano lessons at a young age.

    • He studied composition with various teachers, including Rubin Goldmark and Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger, a prominent French composer and composition teacher, had a profound influence on Copland's musical development.

  • Musical Style:

    • Copland's musical style evolved over the years. In the 1920s, he was influenced by European modernism, including the works of Igor Stravinsky and other avant-garde composers.

    • In the 1930s and 1940s, Copland shifted towards a more accessible and distinctly American style. He sought to create music that was both modern and relatable to a broad American audience. This period is often referred to as his "populist" phase.

    • He incorporated American folk tunes, jazz elements, and open harmonies into his compositions, which contributed to his reputation as a composer with a uniquely American sound.

  • Key Compositions:

    • "Appalachian Spring" (1944) is perhaps his most famous work, capturing the essence of rural America and the simplicity of the Shaker lifestyle. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

    • "Fanfare for the Common Man" (1942) is a short, powerful fanfare that was written as a patriotic response to World War II.

    • "Rodeo" (1942) is a ballet that draws on American cowboy and folk themes. The "Hoedown" section is widely recognised.

    • "Billy the Kid" (1938) is another popular ballet, focusing on the infamous American outlaw.

    • "Lincoln Portrait" (1942) is a dramatic work for narrator and orchestra, incorporating excerpts from Abraham Lincoln's speeches.

  • Contribution to American Music:

    • Copland played a crucial role in shaping American classical music, helping to define what would become known as the "American sound" in music.

    • He also contributed to film music, composing scores for movies such as "The Red Pony" and "Of Mice and Men."

  • Teaching and Conducting:

    • Copland was a dedicated music educator and taught at several institutions, including the Tanglewood Music Center.

    • He was also a conductor, leading various orchestras and championing the works of contemporary composers.

  • Legacy:

    • Aaron Copland's music continues to be widely performed and admired for its evocative and accessible style.

    • His influence on American music and his promotion of American composers are lasting legacies in the world of classical music.

    • Copland received numerous awards during his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he remains a beloved figure in American musical history.

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