Continuing on with our “American music” theme this month, let’s look at Aaron Copland and how he contributed to creating this “American sound.” Though born in New York, Copland received much of his music education in Europe, studying under the infamous Nadia Boulanger.
Copland made it his goal to write in an Americanist style, hoping to peak the American public’s interest in classical music. He also worked to promote the compositions of other American composers, both those before his time and contemporaries.
Early in his career, Copland sought to use what he considered the first American musical movement in his Americanist pieces: jazz. An example of this is his Music for Theatre (1925). By using jazz elements within a symphonic style, Copland hoped to create an “American sound” apart from the European tradition.
During the 1930s, Copland began pulling from popular and folk music of other countries and using the material in his work. The use of Mexican folk elements in his El Salón México (1932–1936) and cowboy songs in Billy the Kid (1938) and Rodeo (1942) were additional attempts to expand the American audience for classical music by creating sounds that may sound comfortable or familiar. Copland also used his skill in film scores for movies such as Of Mice and Men (1939) and Our Town (1940).
On Thursday we will take a look at one of Copland’s most popular works, Appalachian Spring. What is your favorite?
El Salón México
Billy the Kid