Copland – An Outdoor Overture

by Max Derrickson

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

An Outdoor Overture


Aaron Copland, surelyAmerica’s most articulate composer, was for several decades the dean of American art music.  Besides penning his beloved compositions, he lectured broadly and often, championed new composers (especially of Mexico), and led the public discussion about bringing music to the greater populace.  Notwithstanding his critics’ assertion that he popularized music to promote his own career, his intent was genuine:  to cultivate accessible art music based on American threads and themes.


One of many American composers to study in Paris with the famous Nadia Boulanger, Copland did not start out writing iconic pieces like Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man, Rodeo, and Billy the Kid.  Yet from the start his works had a characteristic transparency, sparse orchestration, jazzy influences, and syncopations.


Copland came by these characteristics honestly.  Born to European immigrants, he spent most of his life inManhattan, later making frequent trips to Mexico and South America.  Jazz, syncopation, and Jewish and folk melodies of several lands and cultures ran in his blood.  He championed new music in all genres and he admired the great jazz artists of his day.

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