Click here for FREE music lessons:Two Weeks Free Music Lessons

Composer Spotlight: Who was Aaron Copland and How Did He Make a Difference in the World of Music? (E19)

Who was Aaron Copland? Aaron Copland is one of America’s greatest composers—and one of my favorite composers—so I’m thrilled to introduce him to you today in case you don’t know much about him. Copland’s music and influence spanned almost the entire 20th century. He was born in 1900 in Brooklyn, New York, and passed away in 1990. Copland’s work has left a lasting legacy in the world of classical music. He is often celebrated for his ability to create music that evokes the vast, open landscapes and spirited life of America.

Composer Spotlight: Who was Aaron Copland and How Did He Make a Difference in the World of Music?

Aaron Copland’s Early Life and Inspirations

Growing up in a bustling city like New York didn’t prevent Copland from writing music that painted pictures of wide-open spaces and rural life. His upbringing in Brooklyn, with two older brothers and two older sisters, in a family that owned a department store, played a significant role in shaping his character. His early interest in music began around the age of seven, inspired by listening to records on his cousin’s phonograph and pestering his older sister to give him piano lessons. This early fascination with music quickly grew into a lifelong passion.

Education and European Influence

At the age of 20, Copland had the opportunity to study music composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, one of the most renowned composition teachers of the 20th century. This experience broadened his musical horizons and introduced him to modern composers like Igor Stravinsky of Russia and Maurice Ravel of France, who were known for their innovative approaches to music. It was during his time in Europe that Copland also encountered jazz, a genre invented by African American musicians that was becoming increasingly popular worldwide.

Creating a Truly American Sound

Copland’s music is characterized by its simplicity and clarity, often incorporating jazz rhythms and elements of American folk music. That’s why many have said his music epitomized true American music. One of his significant compositional breakthroughs came when Sergei Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, decided to perform Copland’s “Symphony for Organ and Orchestra.” Although it initially met with mixed reactions, with some people even booing the performance, Copland continued to innovate and refine his style.

His travels to Mexico also had a profound impact on his music. Inspired by the vibrant local music and culture, he composed “El Salón México,” a piece that successfully combined Mexican folk tunes with his own unique style, creating a joyful and lively composition that became very popular.

Appalachian Spring: A Testament to the American Spirit

One of Copland’s most celebrated works is Appalachian Spring, a ballet score that he composed in 1944 for choreographer Martha Graham. The piece tells the story of a young pioneer couple in the early 19th century, celebrating their new farmhouse in the Pennsylvania hills. The music captures the simplicity and beauty of rural American life, intertwining folk tunes with Copland’s distinctively open and accessible harmonic language.

Appalachian Spring includes the famous Shaker tune “Simple Gifts,” which Copland weaves into the score to evoke a sense of community and serenity. This piece became an anthem of hope and renewal during a time when America was emerging from the Great Depression and involved in World War II. Its premiere performance was a significant cultural event, showcasing the collaborative spirit of American artists and the power of music to inspire and uplift.

Celebrated Works and Legacy of Aaron Copland

During the Great Depression, as America faced significant economic challenges and the looming threat of World War II, Copland’s music provided comfort and hope. His ballet scores, such as “Billy the Kid,” “Rodeo,” and “Appalachian Spring,” often used American folk songs to evoke a sense of national pride and resilience. His “Fanfare for the Common Man,” inspired by a vice presidential speech about the contributions of ordinary soldiers during World War II, remains one of his most recognized works.

Copland’s ability to blend classical music with American folk traditions and modern elements made his compositions accessible to a broad audience. He wanted his music to be enjoyed by everyone, not just classical music aficionados. This inclusive approach helped establish a distinctly American sound in classical music.

Conclusion of Composer Spotlight: Who was Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland’s contributions to music were not only in his compositions but also in his role as an educator and advocate for modern music. His innovative use of jazz and folk elements, along with his dedication to creating music that resonated with everyday Americans, has secured his place as a pivotal figure in American music history. His legacy continues to inspire musicians and composers around the world.

Hopefully, this overview of Aaron Copland’s life and work has sparked your interest in his music. I encourage you to take some time to listen to the lively rhythms of “El Salón México,” the majestic and bold “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and the beauty and serenity of “Appalachian Spring.” There’s something in Copland’s music for everyone to enjoy.

El Salón México:

Fanfare for the Common Man:

Appalachian Spring:

Learn More About 20th Century Composers in this Comprehensive Online Course:

Product image

20th Century Music Appreciation for High School

36 Lessons to Earn a 1/2 Credit in High School Fine Arts

948 students enrolled

Last updated Jul 13th, 2024

Select a Pricing Plan
Buy now

See the YouTube Video “Who was Aaron Copland and How Did He Make a Difference in the World of Music?” here:

Listen to the Podcast Episode about “Who was Aaron Copland and How Did He Make a Difference in the World of Music?” here:

Listen here or subscribe and follow The Music in Our Homeschool Podcast through your favorite podcast app!

Read the Podcast Transcript here.

Related Posts:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Music Lessons for Holidays and Special Days self-paced online course for elementary students. Learn about some great music associated with holidays throughout the year, plus fun days such as Star Wars Day, Dr. Seuss Day, and Talk Like a Pirate Day!