Copland's Synthesis Of American Music

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When one ponders the concept of “American” music, it can become difficult to pinpoint any one style or genre; modern music is a synthesis of music past, and to name a single genre would be an insult to the many styles whose powers combined to form the types of music we know today. When one asks the question “What is American Music?” some may suggest jazz, others may mention blues, and some individuals may suggest the marches of John Philip Sousa. However, one composer’s name is the true answer to such a question; through his synthesis of jazz, blues, and other musical styles of his time Aaron Copland’s compositions embody the quintessential American sound.
To begin, one must consider the musical state of America during the early years of Copland’s
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Several jazz elements are seen in the Piano Concerto, as noted by Stanley Kleppinger: “Among those ‘jazz techniques’ commonly cited in [the Piano Concerto] are the use of ‘blue notes’ (chromatically lowered scale degrees in close proximity to their diatonic versions), emphasis of certain timbres such as drum-kit-like percussion and brass with various styles of mutes, and the use of rhythmic materials common to jazz music” (Kleppinger). The influence of American popular music is much more evident here than in Piano Blues, because the meter of Copland’s Piano Concerto is not as free and expressive, but more consistent and upbeat, with emphasis of the off-beats giving a more clear indication of jazz …show more content…
In Appalachian Spring, as American conductor Marin Alsop so eloquently describes, Copland “brings together his playful side, his penchant for simplicity and his gift for storytelling. He weaves a pioneer tale using indigenous American tunes (the Shaker melody “The Gift to be Simple”) and folk-sounding music” (Alsop). Written over a decade after the beginning of the Great Depression, Appalachian Spring invokes a feeling of joy, of happiness, perhaps a symbolic representation of the collective sigh of relief breathed by the American people who, after over a decade of struggle, made it through the Depression. Similarly, Fanfare for the Common Man, written around the same time comes across as both a sort of congratulatory anthem and rallying cry for the, as the title suggests, “common man”. The dramatic, patriotic brass opening, paired with the large, perfect intervals “creates a feeling of wide-open space” (Alsop) and the abundance of consonant intervals represents the feeling that everything is “as it should be”, which, for Americans at the time Fanfare for the Common Man was written, was a welcome feeling after the decade of a lack thereof. Michael Thomas expands on the concept: “[this was] an uncertain time for Americans. But

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