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Aaron Copland

November 14, 1900 - December 2, 1990
born in Brooklyn, NY, composed during the Modern period
Few figures in American music loom as large as Aaron Copland. As one of the first wave of literary and musical expatriates in Paris during the 1920s, Copland returned to the United States with the means to assume, for the next half century, a central role in American music as composer, promoter, and educator. Copland's sheer popularity and iconic status are such that his music has transcended the concert hall and entered the popular consciousness; it both accompanies solemn and joyous celebrations the world over (Fanfare for the Common Man) and punctuates the familiar words "Beef: It's What's for Dinner!" (Rodeo) for millions of television viewers.

Copland was the youngest of five children born to Harris and Sarah Copland, Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who owned a department store in Brooklyn. He did not take formal piano lessons until he was 13, by which time he had also begun writing small pieces. Instead of attending college, Copland studied theory and composition with Rubin Goldmark and piano with Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler, and attended as many concerts, operas, and ballets as possible. In 1921, he went to Fontainebleau, France, taking conducting and composition classes at the American Conservatory. He went on to study in Paris with Ricardo Viñes and Nadia Boulanger and spent the next three years soaking up all the European culture, both new and old, that he could. He learned to admire not only composers like Stravinsky, Milhaud, Fauré, and Mahler, but others such as author André Gide. Boulanger's performance of Copland's 1924 Organ Symphony with Koussevitzky was the beginning of a friendship between the conductor and composer that led to Copland teaching at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood) from 1940 until 1965.

After his return to America, Copland drifted toward an incisive, austere style that captured something of the sobriety of Depression-torn America. The most representative work of this period -- the Piano Variations (1930) -- remains one of the composer's seminal efforts. He tried to avoid taking a university position, instead writing for journals and newspapers, organizing concerts, and taking on administrative duties for composers' organizations, trying to promote American music. By the mid-1930s, taking the direct engagement of and communication with audiences as one of his central tenets, Copland's compositions developed (in parallel with other composers like Virgil Thomson and Roy Harris) an "American" style marked by folk influences, a new melodic and harmonic simplicity, and an appealing directness free from intellectual pretension. This is nowhere more in evidence than in Copland's ballets of this period, and it finally earned him the respect of the general public. While Copland gradually became less prolific from the mid-1950s on, he continued to experiment and explore "fresh" means of musical expression, including a highly individual adoption of 12-tone principles in works like the Piano Fantasy and Connotations for orchestra. Still, the fundamentally lyrical nature of Copland's language remained intact and occasionally emerged -- with an often surprising retrospective air -- in works like the Duo for flute and piano (1971). He continued to teach and write and received numerous awards both in America and abroad. In 1958, he began conducting orchestras around the world, performing works by 80 other composers as well as his own over the next 20 years. By the mid-'70s, Copland had for all intents and purposes ceased composing. One of the last of his creative accomplishments was the completion of his two-volume autobiography (with musicologist Vivian Perlis), an essential document in understanding the growth of American music in the twentieth century. ~ Rovi Staff, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: A Copland Celebration Vol. 2

Disc 1
Title: Vitebsk, Study On A Jewish Theme, For Piano Trio
Title: Sextet, For Clarinet, Piano & String Quartet (arr. Of Symphony No. 2)
Title: Piano Quartet
Title: Duo, For Flute (Or Violin) & Piano
Disc 2
Title: Lincoln Portrait, For Speaker & Orchestra
Title: Poems (12) Of Emily Dickinson, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano (Orchestrated 1970 As "Poems (8) Of Emily Dickinson")
Title: Old American Songs, For Voice & Piano, Book 1
Title: Old American Songs, For Voice & Piano, Book 2
Title: Billy The Kid, Orchestral Suite From The Ballet
x

Track List: A Copland Celebration Vol. 3

Disc 1
Title: Old American Songs, For Voice & Piano, Book 1
Title: Old American Songs, For Voice & Piano, Book 2
Title: Poems (12) Of Emily Dickinson, Song Cycle For Voice & Piano (Orchestrated 1970 As "Poems (8) Of Emily Dickinson")
Title: In The Beginning, For Mezzo-soprano & Chorus
Title: Lark, For Baritone & Chorus
Disc 2
Title: The Tender Land, Opera
x

Track List: Aaron Copland: Music For Piano

x

Track List: Copland: Appalachian Spring, Clarinet Concerto

x

Track List: Copland: El Salón México; Appalacian Spring; Rodeo; Dance Symphony; Fanfare

Title: El Salón México, For Orchestra
Title: Dance Symphony, For Orchestra
Title: Fanfare For The Common Man, For Brass & Percussion (From Symphony No. 3)
Title: Rodeo, Selections From The Ballet (Including "Four Dance Episodes")
Title: Appalachian Spring, Concert Suite For Full Orchestra
x

Track List: Copland: Piano Sonata; Piano Fantasy

Comments

I luv Aaron Copland!
ddraim1844.. . . W O W ! ! That is a great story! To have Mr. Copland himself directing you for his B-day is INCREDIBLE! Your choir must have been pretty good to have been selected. My sister is the choir director at our local high school, they have a great music program so I can fully appreciate your story. To bad we didn't have home video recording capabilities back then you could have relived the experience & maybe appreciated it a little more. What a honor to have been thru that though! Very cool.
This is another of those songs that if your heart aint pumpin when its over, you must be dead.
cassiecoolst e r
I like her music its actually better than others
In 1975, the high school choir that I sang in was chosen to sing Aaron Copland's a cappella In The Beginning at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC for the composer's 75th birthday celebration. Copland himself conducted us. I was only 17 and didn't fully appreciate how fortunate I was to sing under his direction... I now understand. The evening before, he came to our high school in Northern VA to rehearse us. Precious memories of a great and generous man.
I suddenly have a craving for beef... maybe for dinner.
Spike Lee used a lot of Copland's music in his film He Got Game. This film included Denzel Washington and Pro Basketball Player Ray Allen. What a great movie!
paultwatson
I hope his work becomes what is view as the sound of our time. It is for me. Hats off maestro.
guotan
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the big letters. This is so scary because it actually works.
This is classic, going home, Americana. DBH
desilva.emil e a n e
First heard his music, Fanfare to the Common Man at a graduation ceremony. I had to find and listen to more, especially Appalachian Spring. Wonderful!!
Just amazing..... c o u l d listen to Copland forever!
Why does this tune make me salivate?
ccoc0
I love Appalachain Spring. The mixed soloing is very nicely done and I love the great symphony orchestra sound
I was fortunate enough to get to play some of this man's amazing music as part of a symphony. One of the most amazing experiences!
I love that Patrick! So true!
patrickmott1 - interesting comment. I couldn't agree more. This is what the real America is and what it sounds like inside.
patrickmott1
I tell people I meet on travels abroad that if they want to know what America and Americans are like--really like, deep down in their heart of hearts--they should cue up a bunch of Aaron Copland, settle into a comfortable chair, close their eyes and open their imaginations . What they'll see and feel will be us at our best and most authentic.
Copland is probably the greatest of the American masters. He simply can not be compared to the other music genres of today. The depth and breadth of emotion he communicates through his music is simply without equal.
Copland? gangsta beats? yay yay and 2 whoops? Sarah Palin? cluck like a chicken?
1122933
The feeling emoted in Copland's pieces along with the complexity and musicality in them are unmatched. Anyone composing now should take notes! This man was a musical genius.
bernardenort h
Them s**ts got them gangsta beats yay yay and 2 whoops
erich121
I was a bit too pretentious as a younger man (well, maybe a lot too pretentious) to appreciate this music that I considered so unsophistica t e d that it could be used in car commercials. I've grown up. I really enjoy his music now.
It occurs to me too that when your listening to Aaron Copland that
what you are doing...you are listening to Aaron Copland. Your amerced in and moving with it and it has all of your attention. Your eyes are growing heavier and heavier and you are getting sleepy and becoming more and more relaxed. When I count to ten and snap my fingers you will cluck like a chicken. DMB

See! Ask a man what he thinks of Aaron Copland and he will tell you the content of his character. alan.fein you are a good and decent being with appreciation of aestetics and creativity.. DMB
What an amazing composer .. he defines the American sound and spirit. Absolutely timeless. Whenever i need to lift my spirits I listen to anything by Copeland. Thank heaven for the gifts he gave us all.
Just glad Mr. Copeland did not have to learn that he did not create these
great pices of music on his own! We are going from beliving in man's ability to create on his own; to downplaying creativity to not belonging to them but someone that wants to squash man's desire to make beautiful things for all to enjoy! Let Copeland fill the air waves!!!
I just had an after thought...wh a t I always say is that if you want to know the content of a persons character ask him what he thinks of Sarah Palin.
Aaron Copland works too! DMB
Rest not. Life is sweeping by, go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime leave behind to conquer time. -Goethe- 1749-1832
And that Aaron Copeland most certainly did and now even in death his music touches your heart and will touch hearts forever. DMD
Barber, Copeland, Gershwin...2 0 t h century America's greatest contributors to the enduring power of the worldwide language.
Among American composers he is in a class by himself. Superlative and timeless.
Aaron Copland's music gave me so much appreciation for Classical Music. Through his music I was able to see and feel the adventurous spirit of America. It opened my mind up to listen to other classical music and other genres of music that I didn't listen to, and to see the value in all music.
marygrider
I LOVE this composer.
patrick.game o v e r m a n
After hearing "Fanfare for the Common Man" I created a Copland Pandora station, and since then he swiftly became my favorite composer.
the jews no how to create and compose american USA music. Hallaluyah.. .
One of -- if not THE greatest truly AMERICAN composer of all time. BJG.
shancock33
I was in high school in the 80's. Copland would rock my speakers as good as ac/dc, cheap trick, and with much more of a story
dan5491
I danced to and choreographe d to him all thru the 70's and into the 80's... Some of the best work I ever did was to some of his, love this guy.
Sometimes his music evokes the loneliness of a late night looking out a city window, sometimes the quiet blush of early spring in the mountains, sometimes it's the joy of prairie farmers, or the busy discord of postmodern life... It's all America. So beautiful.
charliecohna
Aaron Coplan is the titan of american music.His compositions will be played as long as clasical music is enjoyed in the future.
beryl900
I was fortunate to see him twice and one of those times, I sang for him. Thank you Ottawa University, Ottawa Kansas.
I love his music. Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man. I believe this was played continuously during the mourning period for JFK. I remember hearing it quite often during the CBS broadcasts.
sandersen51
One of my favorite American composers !
Close to thirty years ago I was a musician with a military field band. I was introduced to Aaron Copland (figurativel y , of course) when I was handed the trumpet part to his composition "Quiet City." Over the years I've explored his work and I've found much of what he's done to be among my favorite music. And even though I don't play anymore, I still love "Quiet City."
The most important thing to remember of Copland that his music remains to be as versatile and timeless. I sang his music in college choir in 8 part harmony. It was as moving as hearing it played by full symphony. These are the composers that future writers should aspire to create and feel influenced by. Truly a gem.
Variations of a Shaker Melody, and Appalachian Spring are so good makes me think of the grand open space of the American West
Copland and Gershwin are often mentioned together as two of the greatest american composers of their time; Copland however refused to recognize the serious composition talent of Gershwin, a fellow Jew. Yet where Copeland is given the credit as creating the first "American" sound, drawing on old American folk music, Gershwin at an earlier age then Copland had already done the same with the Jazz sound.
chaffee518
One of my favorite composers ..he brings so much emotion to his work, listen to "Our Town".
finsyb
"Iconic status" is an appropriate term! Seminal 20th century American composer whose sweeping influence is heard in tons of subsequent American composers' works, particularly film and TV scores. Left a wonderful body of works that will inspire generations beyond him. Appalachian Spring is on my list of 10 "desert island" records I wouldn't want to live without!
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