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Aaron Copland Essay

1049 words - 4 pages

Aaron Copland was the leading pioneer in American music. He was one of the most respected and admired composers of the twentieth century. American composers were viewed as being a spin-off of it’s European counterpart. Aaron Copland was a tremendous influence to help American composers break free from the ‘European’ style of music. Twentieth century Americanism was reflected in the music created by Aaron Copland; consequently, he is perceived as America’s most important composer ( This paper will briefly examine Aaron Copland’s life, influences reflected in his music and various musical styles.
The son of Jewish immigrants and the youngest of five children, Aaron, grew up above his parent’s successful Brooklyn, New York department store. He credited his business abilities to his experience helping to run his parents store. His sister, Laurine, introduced young Aaron to ragtime, opera and was his first piano teacher. At the age of seven, he was making up tunes at the piano and was notating short pieces at twelve years old. Aaron’s first formal piano lessons were under the instruction of Leopold Wolfsohn (1913-17) and later he studied under Victor Wittgenstein (1917-19) and Clarence Adler (1919-21) (Pollack, 1:Life). However, lessons in composition and music theory were under the tutelage of Rubin Goldmark, “an old-fashioned teacher...against whom Copland rebelled” ( During this time, Aaron was enamored with Scriabin, Debussy and Ives (which Goldmark called “dangerous”) and he scoured New York’s public libraries for the latest American and European scores. Finally, Aaron’s dream of studying in Paris came to fruition (1921-4) taking piano instruction from Ricardo Vines and studying composition with Nadia Boulanger. There he produced his first orchestral score, the ballet Grohg (Pollack, 1:Life). While in Paris, his European travels exposed him to a wide variety of music styles; however, with the encouragement of Boulanger, he was successful in creating his unique compositions that became expressions of Americanism. Upon returning to America, despite the support of several composers and artist, “Copland’s ‘strident’ and ‘nervous’ music met with a skeptical audience and press” (Pollack, 1:Life). The skepticism gave way as Aaron’s musical style matured and as his genre broadened. Copland’s musical capabilities went beyond composition; he was also an accomplished conductor, pianist, teacher and author. Copland ceased composing after 1972, “It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet”, he said (Pollack, 1:Life). He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer disease and died at the age of ninety.
Aaron Copland seems to be an unlikely person to be credited with creating “20th century American” music. His families ‘roots’ were Russian-Jewish and he “found his musical voice in the international, avant-garde atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s” ( Additionally, he had ties...

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