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The Socialist Movement In The United States And Copland’s American Music

1341 words - 5 pages

During the Great Depression, there was a large surge in the socialist movement in the United States. This was particularly true among the artists as these bitter years brought people to realize individual expressionism and self-scrutiny (Dobrin 116). In that regard, much of the art during the period was created as a response to cope and understand the hardship that the nation was facing. Ballet pieces such as Billy the Kid (1938), commemorating an outlaw similar to Robin Hood, showed Copland exploring a prelapsarian state before the loss of innocence under capitalism (Ross 276). Although, Copland was never formally associated with these socialist views or a true member of any communist movements (Ross 275), many of his philosophies at this time. It is quite ironic that these communistic ideologies are what propelled Copland to make an American sound. However, ideologically, communism, which has nationalistic tendencies, does indeed spur culturally representative music. Copland, who had already been leaning leftward since his European trips of 1927 and 1929, was interested in the concepts of finding music to represent and distinguish the working classes of America (Ros 272). This was the extent to Copland’s wishes of radicalism. His essay in a Communist funded periodical Music Vanguard (1935) stated his interest in finding a clear communicative style for the people rather than the political intentions (Ross 275). The Communist party also provided a means of financial support during the Great Depression time for artists (Ross 272). However, it was unquestionable that Copland had strong ties and influences to the socialist movement and Popular front, even called “an active, vocal ‘red’,” (Crist 422). Copland was particular interested in these themes which he did ascribe to in much of his work such as: “the ability to discard all the non-essentials, to concentrate on the central kernel of an idea” (Dobrin 115). These political movements of the time in the thirties due the Great Depression, which was an identifying part of American history, also spurred Copland’s American music.
In addition to the socialist ideals that Copland picked up, the Great Depression was not a warm environment for Copland to work therefore he traveled around to various countries to write and find his musical style. Copland having achieved some success after his Piano Variations and various ballet compositions was invited to Mexico by composer Carlos Chavez in 1932 (Ross 274). Chavez had a similar background in that he also traveled to Europe to study and looked to further modern music into the Americans from Europe (Dobrin 121). Doblin’s account of Copland’s visit shows that he was surprised to see such a different and antiquated culture in Mexico. This contrast between New York, Mexico and France provided background for Copland. Furthermore, Copland was inspired by Chavez’s goals and in this time tried to create music that infused Mexican and American ideals. The result of...

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