Aaron Copland Outline Introduction A The Purpose Term Paper

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Aaron Copland Outline

INTRODUCTION a. The purpose of this paper is to introduce and discuss the life and works of composer

Aaron Copeland. It will discuss some of the composer's well-known works, and analyze his contribution to modern classical music.





The purpose of this paper is to introduce and discuss the life and works of composer Aaron Copeland. It will discuss some of the composer's well-known compositions, and analyze his contribution to modern classical music.


Aaron Copland was born in New York City on November 14, 1900, the son of Jewish Russian immigrants. His childhood was typical. He worked in his father's department store on Saturday's, and attended public schools in Brooklyn. From a very early age, Copland enjoyed making up songs, and he knew by the age of fifteen that he wanted to compose music.

He learned to play piano from his sister, and took a correspondence course to learn about harmony. He first played the piano publicly at a performance in Wanamaker's Department Store in Manhattan.

In 1921, he visited Paris to attend a new music school for Americans. He studied there three years under Nadia Boulanger, and then returned to New York for his first commission. He titled it "Symphony for Organ and Orchestra," and it premiered in at Carnegie Hall in 1925 (Chew). Many critics have said that this time Copland spent in Paris helped mold and shape his work for the rest of his life. He met many famous artists, composers, and intellectuals, who helped form his outlook on life, as well as his music.

He spent the next two years in New York, then "Copland received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the first to be awarded to a composer, and he returned to France for another stay. With this move the pattern of his life became established -- residence in or near New York was interspersed with frequent sojourns in Europe, Mexico, Hollywood, South America, and the Far East" (Hansen 307).

Throughout his life, he was known as a liberal thinker, and was even called before a secret Senate hearing during the scare of the McCarthy Hearings.

During the 30s, Copeland taught, wrote, and tried to find ways to bring his music to more people. His first major work during this period was "The Second Hurricane," which he created for children, and children and their families in a New York housing development were the first to hear it performed.

During his long career he not only composed, wrote, and taught, he also helped found several institutions and festivals, including the American Composers Alliance. He taught at the acclaimed Tanglewood Festival for nearly 25 years, and worked with the Berkshire Music Center. He believed in supporting young musicians, and there is still a school at Queens College that bears his name.

Copland finally stopped writing music in the 1970s. He continued to lecture, write, and conduct his music through the mid-1980s. He died on December 2, 1990 at the Phelps Memorial Hospital in Tarrytown (Westchester County), New York, shortly after his 90th birthday.


Popular jazz and be-bop music heavily influenced his early works. As he matured, he began to compose strictly in the modern classical style, and most of his work falls under this style.

His music most often celebrated the unique American character that he found so appealing. His ballets and scores included "Rodeo," "Appalachian Spring," "A Lincoln Portrait," "Theme for the Common Man," and "Billy the Kid." He also wrote numerous piano concertos, smaller pieces, and two sets of "Old American Songs," which were arrangements of traditional folk tunes "that became so popular in their piano and orchestral versions as to eclipse the original melodies on which they were based" (Hampson). At the height of his popularity and career in 1944, Copland's score for "Appalachian Spring" won the Pulitzer Prize for music. Yet, he continued to write for thirty years after this apex of his work.

Usually, Copland did not conduct his own music. He said of composers who tried to also conduct their own work, "In most cases these two musical functions -- composing and conducting -- are quite distinct one from the other. There are few more pitiable sights than to watch a gifted composer trying to lead an orchestra through his own composition with only the foggiest notion of how to get what he so desperately wants from the massed musicians before him" (Copland).

To a great extent, Copland seems the product of two milieus: Paris and the United States. The States give him something not always at the front of his conscious mind - an imaginative landscape of expression, more than anything else. Along with Gershwin, his music conveys the energy of New York and the visual power of skyscrapers (the folk-like Copland comes later). Paris gives him a Stravinskian orientation and technique, as well as an elegance of expression - the ability to say the most with the fewest notes" (Schwartz).

Copland's music may have been a product of two countries, but much of his work is based solely on solidly American themes. In his later life, he began to tire of his "pastoral" themes, and tried to change his style, blending in the styles of other famous composers of the time, like Schoenberg. These later pieces were not well received by the public, and most young composers began to ignore his work.

Although he did not conduct as much during the height of his career, in the 1960s and 70s he began to conduct his own music as well as other's. He also wrote musical criticism, and taught in order to earn a living, since he was no longer making a living from composing.


Copland is recognized as one of the greatest American composers of all time. He began his career during a time when there were very few American classical composers. His work spanned six generations, and he created some of America's most well-known and well-loved tunes.

His theme from "Rodeo" has become the theme song for the Beef Industry's commercials, and the Boston Pops Orchestra performed his "Fanfare for the Common Man" at the 2002 Super Bowl, as a tribute to all Americans. A whole new generation may not know who Aaron Copland was, but they know his music, and appreciate it.

Long before he died, critics said of his work, "Copland is one of the most interesting and significant American composers of his generation. He has achieved a genuinely personal musical style, not by exclusion, but by including European as well as American elements. His activities as teacher, writer, and entrepreneur have been extensive and his leadership unquestioned" (Hansen 315).

Copeland's music includes fluctuating meter, dissonance, varying rhythms, and is truly his own personal style. Nothing else really sounds like Copland, and when you hear one of his pieces, you inherently know that it is a Copland classic.

His music also embodies several different styles. His early compositions were influenced by jazz and be-bop, so popular at the time. His middle works were pastoral, and folk-influenced. The people and their surroundings inspired him as he traveled around the United States and the world. His later works embody the changes in American classical music, and as a movement. His work during this period is more dissonant, classical, and influenced by other American composers. Some critics believe his last works were his best, even though they never gained the popularity of his pastoral works.

His music lives on, and is perhaps even more popular than when he was alive. His strong sense of rhythm, meter, and dramatic use of instrumentation is stirring, vibrantly alive, and truly, a "Theme for the Common Man."


Copland's music still inspires and instills a basic kind of pride…[continue]

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