Aaron Copland

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Aaron Copland

Post  pinhedz on Sun May 22, 2011 11:56 am

Cook Pass Babtridge
Thu Sep 11, 2008 1:18 pm

What do ya think?




I dig.


pinhedz

This will be a gross oversimplification, but as a first step in evaluating composers, one could divide them into two categries: those that are more like Mozart, and those that are more like Antonio Salieri.

I don't mean to insult those in the Salieri category; he was actually a good composer. It's just that some composers achieve what they can based on technical competence and earnest effort, not having the raw talent and inspiration that Mozart had.

In America, the big name in the Mozart category is George Gershwin, and Virgil Thompson reminds me most of Salieri (he even published reviews and essays explaining that Gershwin didn't have enough technical training to compose properly). The biggest name in the Salieri category is Leonard Bernstein (who wrote about his frustrations in his efforts to be like Gershwin).

I like Copeland, but I think he's closer to Salieri than to Mozart. He's best known for two catchy tunes, neither of which he wrote. One is the "Hoedown" from the ballet "Rodeo," which comes from a 1937 field recording made by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. The other famous tune is the "Simple Gifts" theme from "Appalachian Spring," which is a church hymn sung by the Shaker religious community.

I think what I like best about Copeland is some of the sonorities he produces. He was a first-rate orchestrator in general, and some of his sonorities I think might be originally his. This is no small feat--the fact that there are sounds that I might hear and say "That sounds Copeland-like."


Hosni

Well, I know that Michael Tilson Thomas would disagree with this somewhat condescending view of Copland. One day, I'll find the liner notes to my Thomas does Copland CD and rebut you. One day.


pinhedz

There might not be that much disagreement in substance. I'm sure Thomas admires Copland's orchestrations and wouldn't dispute the sources of the tunes. And I could spin what I said differently if I was writing liner notes. Wink

Cook Pass Babtridge

Does Dylan still have Copeland playing before he comes on?

It's by far the best thing of a Dylan gig, and a very cool intro.


pinhedz

But if you have to listen to Bob afterwards, is it too high a price to pay?

Turns out the original version of the "Hoedown" is on youtube now:



There's an essay on Copeland's orchestration on the web that gives it a very negative evaluation. I don't really agree with this; I think that what the the author calls a "veneer" is really the spirit the Copeland wanted for the scene in the ballet that he wrote it for.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting point of view--the author points out that the original fiddle piece was intended to depict terrified soldiers running for their lives:

"This particular recording (the only one) of William H. Stepp's version of "Bonaparte's Retreat" was brought to the attention of Aaron Copeland (1900 - 1990) and used as the melodic basis of the "Hoe-Down" movement of his Rodeo ballet (1942). Stepp performs "Bonaparte's Retreat" in a break-down, or hoe-down style. Nevertheless, to use this particular melody as a representative instance of such a dance demonstrates a profound insensitivity to both the particulars of the style and of this tune."

"More striking than this, however, is the fact that Copeland's version mimics the melody and rhythm of Stepp's version so precisely. In following Stepp's performance so precisely, in fact, Copeland has lost the distinction between the tune (its melodic and thematic backbone) and the interpretation of it (the idiosyncrasies of different players which emphasize different strands in the melodic / thematic core). Stepp's version conveys a sense of monotonous march punctuated by desperation and excitement. Stepp layers a frantic and ecstatic veneer onto the incessant flight, the chaotic running, of the underlying melodic structure."

"Yet Copeland, in lifting the literal melody from Stepp's performance, lifts this ecstatic veneer without the underlying desperation. The monotony and rhythm of the march is absent from "Hoe-Down" where the melody, Stepp's idiosyncratic frills and all, is put through the paces of orchestral variation. The lull and swell of dynamics and instrumentation here is not motivated by any particular thematic or aesthetic narrative, but rather exemplifies the standard moves of a the large orchestral spectacle."

"Here, we can separate out, I think, those expressive variations in dynamics, tempo, and timbre which are motivated by a coherent thematic structure and those which simply represent the catalog of techniques available. Certainly, if Copeland's "Hoe-Down" is not an examplar of the latter, it inspired such travesties. Consider, for example, how much further from the thematic core of Stepp the melody came in the version by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer."


pinhedz

That's pretty harsh, so I'll say one more time that I don't really agree with it. Copeland was not under any obligation to be "sensitive to the particulars and style of the tune," he was using it for his own purposes. And in the ballet, the exuberance is not a "veneer," it's the core feeling that the compose wanted at that point in the ballet.

So, should we stay and listen to Bob, or should we go home after the intro?


Cook Pass Babtridge

Seems very harsh.. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer? affraid

HOME AFTER THE INTRO. Laughing


Cook Pass Babtridge

PS: Thanks for the link. Very interesting!


pinhedz

Copeland's other most famous tune--the "Simple Gifts" tune--also has an original version sung by the choir of the Shaker Community in New England. I tried to find it on youtube, but instead I find all kinds of fancied-up choral arrangements. Does it make sense to sing "It's a gift to be simple" with all kinds of tricky counterpoint?

Here's one that's pretty basic:




Hosni




pinhedz

Shakers kept it simple.

You can visit this place--it's very interesting.

No sex allowed, because it leads to tension, violence, and war.




pinhedz
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Re: Aaron Copland

Post  pinhedz on Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:23 pm

Hosni wrote:Well, I know that Michael Tilson Thomas would disagree with this somewhat condescending view of Copland. One day, I'll find the liner notes to my Thomas does Copland CD and rebut you. One day.
I do not doubt that Hosni will come through with the rebuttal, but I'm on pins and needles wondering: which liner notes will Hosni be quoting?

Because Tilson Thomas put out two very different Copland CDs:

1996 -- "Copland: The Modernist"

2010 -- "Copland: The Populist"


The liner notes to these two CDs are no doubt radically different, with the first one going more into the sonorities and edging experimentation, while the second one would be all about how listenable Copland's greatest hits are.

pinhedz
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