Aaron Copland was born in 1900. Aaron was the pioneer of American music. Aaron showed the world how to write classical music in an American way. Americans were rarely recognised as composers in the music world so Aaron Copland went to Europe for serious study, and, in the 1920s, wrote pieces with the flavour of jazz. European classical composers were also influenced by jazz at this time, as they were searching for new ways to bring their music into the 20th century.
Aaron Copland’s early works Grohg and Music for the Theatre show jazz influence. Aaron was soon to shed this in favour of strictly classical yet modernist works. With the great depression of the 1930s, when millions of Americans were unable to find work, the appeal of abstract music began to wain. Beginning in 1938, Aaron produced a series of ballets that were to be widely heard and musically influential: Billy the Kid (a ballet about a legendary western outlaw, complete with cowboy songs, commissioned in 1938 by Kirstein for Eugene Loring), Rodeo (another Wild West ballet, about a cowgirl’s search for a man) and Appalachian Spring (commissioned by the choreographer Martha Graham). When World War II began, the Cincinnati Symphony needed a patriotic American hero, and Aaron Copland by now one of the most famous composers in America wrote A Lincoln Portrait. For the same orchestra, he created his noble Fanfare for the Common Man.
Aaron Copland is probably best known for his concert and ballet works, but his eight scores for films, documentaries and versions of plays by Wilder, Steinbeck and others, set new standards for Hollywood. Purists may have criticised such “popular” works, but Aaron Copland’s fine classical ear gave even cowboy songs both extra bite and depth. Aaron’s work provides the musical backdrop for director Spike Lee’s new film for Touchstone Pictures He Got Game, and it is featured on Sony Classical’s original motion picture soundtrack recording from the film (SK 60593), the majority of which is conducted by the composer himself.
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