Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland

American composer
Date of Birth: 14.11.1900
Country: USA

  1. Aaron Copland: Biography
  2. Exploring European Modernism
  3. Three Stages of Artistic Evolution
  4. Recognitions and Legacy

Aaron Copland: Biography

Aaron Copland, an American composer, was born on November 14, 1900, in Brooklyn, to a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants. After finishing high school, he studied harmony, counterpoint, and composition with R. Goldmark in New York City from 1917 to 1921. In the summer of 1921, he attended special courses at the Fontainebleau School of Music in France, followed by three years of composition lessons with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

Exploring European Modernism

During his time in the capital of France, Copland immersed himself in the vibrant atmosphere of post-war Europe, which was a period of formation for European modernism in music. The works of Igor Stravinsky and the French "Les Six" (especially Darius Milhaud) had a particularly strong influence on the young American composer. Upon his return to New York in June 1924, Copland quickly became a leader among contemporary American composers. He solidified his position through books, public lectures, and, of course, his own compositions.

Three Stages of Artistic Evolution

Copland's artistic evolution can be divided into three main stages. The first stage (1924-1929) is characterized by a synthesis of jazz polyrhythms with compositional techniques typical of the French school of that time. Notable examples from this period include the Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1924), "Music for the Theatre" (1925), and the Piano Concerto (1926). The second stage (1929-1935) saw Copland's music becoming more abstract, achieved through dissonant harmony based on twelve-tone (serial) techniques and the use of polytonal combinations. Noteworthy works from this stage include the Piano Variations (1930), "Short Symphony No. 2" (1933), and "Statements" (1935). In his search for a straightforward and clear musical language, Copland turned to American folklore starting in 1935. This trend is evident in his applied music for radio, film, and theater, such as the ballets "Billy the Kid" (1938), "Rodeo" (1942), and "Appalachian Spring" (1944), which are considered masterpieces of American ballet. In his profound and serious academic works, notable compositions include the Piano Sonata (1941), Third Symphony (1946), cycle of songs "Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson" (1950), and the opera "The Tender Land" (1954). While Copland's applied music often contains direct folk music quotations, his later works in the "high" genres mostly use folk motifs indirectly, and in some cases, their material is connected to the composer's earlier periods. For example, in the Clarinet Concerto (1948), he returns to a jazz style, and in the Piano Quartet (1950), Piano Fantasy (1957), and "Inscape" (1967), he returns to a drier abstract style reminiscent of his second period.

Recognitions and Legacy

Throughout his life, Copland received numerous awards and honors. "Appalachian Spring" earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1945, and he won the Academy Award for Best Music for "The Heiress" in 1949. In 1964, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by the Kennedy Center Honors for his contribution to American culture in 1979. Among the many societies that elected Copland as an honorary member were the National Institute of Arts and Letters in New York and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Copland preferred to earn a living through public lectures and writings rather than teaching. He published extensively in leading journals and newspapers and authored books such as "What to Listen for in Music" (1939), "Music and Imagination" (1952), "Copland on Music" (1960), and "The New Music 1900-1960" (1968; a revised edition of his earlier book, "Our New Music," published in 1941). Copland's ideas were disseminated through his lectures and concerts, which he organized with composer Roger Sessions in New York and at the festivals of American music in Yaddo, Saratoga Springs. Copland was also the initiator of the formation of the American Composers Alliance, which aimed to provide material support to musicians, and he served as its president from 1937 to 1944. In 1940, he directed the composition department at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood). At the request of the U.S. Department of State, Copland made goodwill visits to Latin America in 1941 and 1947 and embarked on a major international tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1960. After 1970, Copland created very little but continued to conduct and give lectures until the mid-1980s. He passed away on December 2, 1990, in North Tarrytown, New York.