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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Musical Interlude

"Simple Gifts" from Aaron Copland's Applachian Spring:

About the piece's composition process:
Originally, Copland did not have a title for the work, referring to it simply as Ballet for Martha. Shortly before the premiere, Graham suggested Appalachian Spring, a phrase from a Hart Crane poem, "The Dance" from a collection of poems in his book "The Bridge."
O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Of Adirondacks!
Because he composed the music without the benefit of knowing what the title was going to be, Copland was often amused when people told him he captured the beauty of the Appalachians in his music, a fact he alluded to in an interview with NPR's Fred Calland.  Little known is that the word "spring" denotes a source of water in the Crane poem; however the poem is a journey to meet springtime.


  1. The complete ballet from the PBS broadcast is available on DVD with other Graham productions.

    The combination of Graham,Copland and Nisamu Noguchi's set design is likely the definitive production.

    Graham was astonishing. She was still a very athletic dancer into her early 60's.

  2. How a homosexual Jewish Atheist-Communist from Brooklyn, New York -- an odd, markedly foreign sort of person diametrically opposed to all things once considered quintessentially "American" -- could so brilliantly and beautifully capture the essence of Nature in rural America and the courage, energy, impudence and daring of the Pioneer Spirit is a baffling phenomenon that proves -- to me -- that God does, indeed, work in mysterious ways.

    The significant composers, and interpreters Took Dictation From God -- as they perceived Him through the uniqueness of their individual identities.

    Brahms, himself, believed he did not fully understand his own creations, and learned much he had not known about his own work from listening to others perform it.

    Claude Debussy -- famous for writing "Programme Music" -- i.e. pictures or "impressions" of specific images, moods, characters or experience captured in Sound -- put the titles to his pieces after he'd composed them -- or so I've read. Robert Schumann often did the same, although most of his song cycles started with words set down by various poets.

    So, Aaron COPLAND [FYI: There is no "E" in his name -- just as there is no "E" after the "P" in the names of famed 18th-century portraitist John Singleton Copley or Boston's COPLEY SQUARE.] may have been a bit arrogant, if he dismissed the fanciful interpretations his music suggested to others.

    The "creative process" is a complex, always mysterious thing, and there may very well be as many different ways of latching onto it as there are true artists, poets, and composers. One the process gets reduced to a formula, the product becomes predictable, and the process no longer creative.

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  4. In your typical useless blind labeling process, FT, you miss quite a bit.

    Copland was not committed to that cadre of avant-garde composers who felt the arts should ignore the understanding of the average citizen (Fanfare for the Common Man and all). He wanted his music to be widely understood and available.He was quite democratic.

    Pretty good film composer also but I think he learned that from Takemitsu, one of those geniuses who wrote for those Japanese films nobody in their right mind watches.

    And there is no evidence he was a Communist. You pontificate a lot, FT but you're shot on reality

  5. It is a beautiful interlude, AOW. It almost seems to be something one might hear at a formal reception at the court of Saint James.

    I am continually amazed that you have so many visitors here that are so taken with their own intellect, that they cannot appreciate the work of others without comment. They pollute the nice environment you provide.

  6. Aaron Copland was first introduced to the ideas of the left in 1919 through his friendship with Arne Vainio, who introduced him to the socialist newspaper The Call, and the political thinking of socialist Eugene Debs. Coupled with this was a deep admiration for writers like Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Upton Sinclair, who were creating novels that criticized the way that capitalism exploited the average person.

    Copland became a lifelong subscriber to The New Republic and The Nation, left wing magazines. Though Copland never formerly joined any political party, he was sympathetic to liberal causes. Pollack would write:

    'Copland never joined any political party. He described himself as "sympathetic toward the American-Liberal principles," saying, "If one likes people, is sympathetic to them and concerned about their welfare in general, one's personal leaning is in the direction of the democratic or liberal viewpoint." Although he avoided getting much more specific than this, one can postulate some of his guiding political ideals, including freedom of speech and thought, civil rights for all men and women, and social and economic justice for the common man. This last in particular overlapped with more purely professional concerns; the fight he waged on behalf of the American composer reflected, in its own way, the larger economic struggles of the working poor.'

    Most of Copland's friends were either radicals or left-of-center liberals. Some of his friends, like Clifford Odets, Paul Bowles, and Elia Kazan briefly joined the American Communist Party. The Young Composers' Group, which Copland belonged, was heavily influenced by leftist thought.

    He was to all intents and purposes a communist.

    Maxine Weisenheimer

  7. Duck,
    You can disagree with FT without launching an ad hominem attack.

    This time, I will let your comment stand; if you launch another such attack, I will delete your comment.

    Besides, such an unwarranted, snippy comment results in the information you want to communicate being ignored and/or denigrated.


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