Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring

My next to oldest brother, Bob, preceded my arrival on Earth by 10 years. He went to college in 1964, which was the perfect time to be a student in the U.S. During the years from 1963 to 1968, the civil rights movement broke down America’s apartheid. The Hippie movement started in California. The Beatles conquered America and changed the face of popular music finally giving it some teeth. It was the era of free love and youth everywhere revolted against the military industrial complex and white Anglo-Saxon authoritarianism.

Bob is a bit of a renaissance man—he was influenced by the Beat poets, drove a grand old Plymouth with huge tail fins, and painted canvases in the style of Miro and Abstract Expressionists. In college, he studied history and design.

He had eclectic tastes in music, and stereo being a new invention and fairly expensive, he built his own vacuum-tube amplifier and receiver out of a kit. We lived in a big farm house and in the summers Bob worked at a nearby factory, and I would then slip into his room to play records. One of the albums he prized was Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, which was based on Shaker melodies. I was drawn to its exciting parts as well as the richly romantic slow movements.

As the war in Vietnam escalated, Bob did not relish the possibility of having to do military service. At the time, teachers could not be drafted, so he abandoned his dream of becoming an artist to get a teaching degree. For the next 30 years after leaving teaching, Bob moved from one job to another while raising a family.

Classical stations play Copland’s work about once a day, so over the years my interest in Copland waned. And if I hear Fanfare for a Common Man used in a political advertisement or for a car commercial one more time, I think I’ll kick my television in.

Once when my daughter, Claire was a teenager, however, I left Appalachian Spring play on the radio while driving her to her violin lesson. I was surprised to find it to be quite an exciting piece with masterful orchestration. It seemed as fresh as when I had first heard it over 30 years ago.

It is still respected as one of the first major serious pieces to be written in the American idiom. Though some might call Copland’s use of folk melodies derivative, Bartok adapted Hungarian and Turkish songs and remains well respected. It also comforts me to know you can also dig in your own backyard to find treasures.

Recently Bob went back to school to earn a masters degree in counseling. Though American life (and politics) can be frustrating as hell, the words one of the Shaker hymn Copland uses comes back to me when I think of Bob: “‘Tis a gift to be simple. ‘Tis a gift to be free.” His gift to me was to show me that having many interest sets you free.
<ul>
<li><a href=”http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/copland.php”>Copland’s biography</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Appalachian-Spring-2004-Remastered/dp/B0013851UC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1302568463&amp;sr=8-1″>Recording </a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kI5k9D7J7H4″>Watch on Youtube</a></li>
</ul>

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About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

8 Responses to Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring

  1. Misirlou says:

    I learned about Aaron Copeland through ballet class (Rodeo) and a wonderfully eccentric music history prof. who loved Copeland’s music.

    Listening to this while eating lunch—simply beautiful.

    Like

  2. Misirlou says:

    Reblogged this on Dutch Treat 64 and commented:
    For lovers of classical music and good writing, check this out.

    Like

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Older siblings can be wonderful examples. By the way, have you changed the setting and fonts on your blog or am I just imagining things? I don’t remember so much blue.

    Like

  4. G.H.Bone says:

    A delightful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As for Copland: well it’s a ravishing piece of music, and so touching.

    Like

  5. katydahle says:

    Appalachain Spring is one of my favorite works, especially the “Allegro” movement. I can’t help but find myself picturing a simpler time with beautiful mountains and scenery. Great post – thanks for sharing your personal story surrounding this work!

    Like

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