July 11th, 2005
Aaron Copland
About the Composer

Aaron Copland was one of the most respected American classical composers of the twentieth century. By incorporating popular forms of American music such as jazz and folk into his compositions, he created pieces both exceptional and innovative. As a spokesman for the advancement of indigenous American music, Copland made great strides in liberating it from European influence. Today, ten years after his death, Copland’s life and work continue to inspire many of America’s young composers.

Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 14, 1900. The child of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, he first learned to play the piano from his older sister. At the age of sixteen he went to Manhattan to study with Rubin Goldmark, a respected private music instructor who taught Copland the fundamentals of counterpoint and composition. During these early years he immersed himself in contemporary classical music by attending performances at the New York Symphony and Brooklyn Academy of Music. He found, however, that like many other young musicians, he was attracted to the classical history and musicians of Europe. So, at the age of twenty, he left New York for the Summer School of Music for American Students at Fountainebleau, France.

In France, Copland found a musical community unlike any he had known. It was at this time that he sold his first composition to Durand and Sons, the most respected music publisher in France. While in Europe Copeland met many of the important artists of the time, including the famous composer Serge Koussevitsky. Koussevitsky requested that Copland write a piece for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The piece, “Symphony for Organ and Orchestra” (1925) was Copland’s entry into the life of professional American music. He followed this with “Music for the Theater” (1925) and “Piano Concerto” (1926), both of which relied heavily on the jazz idioms of the time. For Copland, jazz was the first genuinely American major musical movement. From jazz he hoped to draw the inspiration for a new type of symphonic music, one that could distinguish itself from the music of Europe.

In the late 1920s Copland’s attention turned to popular music of other countries. He had moved away from his interest in jazz and began to concern himself with expanding the audience for American classical music. He believed that classical music could eventually be as popular as jazz in America or folk music in Mexico. He worked toward this goal with both his music and a firm commitment to organizing and producing. He was an active member of many organizations, including both the American Composers’ Alliance and the League of Composers. Along with his friend Roger Sessions, he began the Copland-Sessions concerts, dedicated to presenting the works of young composers. It was around this same time that his plans for an American music festival (similar to ones in Europe) materialized as the Yaddo Festival of American Music (1932). By the mid-’30s Copland had become not only one of the most popular composers in the country, but a leader of the community of American classical musicians.

It was in 1935 with “El Salón México” that Copland began his most productive and popular years. The piece presented a new sound that had its roots in Mexican folk music. Copland believed that through this music, he could find his way to a more popular symphonic music. In his search for the widest audience, Copland began composing for the movies and ballet. Among his most popular compositions for film are those for “Of Mice and Men” (1939), “Our Town ” (1940), and “The Heiress” (1949), which won him an Academy Award for best score. He composed scores for a number of ballets, including two of the most popular of the time: “Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo” (1942) and Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring” (1944), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. Both ballets presented views of American country life that corresponded to the folk traditions Copland was interested in. Probably the most important and successful composition from this time was his patriotic “A Lincoln Portrait” (1942). The piece for voice and orchestra presents quotes from Lincoln’s writings narrated over Copland’s musical composition.

Throughout the ’50s, Copland slowed his work as a composer, and began to try his hand at conducting. He began to tour with his own work as well as the works of other great American musicians. Conducting was a synthesis of the work he had done as a composer and as an organizer. Over the next twenty years he traveled throughout the world, conducting live performances and creating an important collection of recorded work. By the early ’70s, Copland had, with few exceptions, completely stopped writing original music. Most of his time was spent conducting and reworking older compositions. In 1983 Copland conducted his last symphony. His generous work as a teacher at Tanglewood, Harvard, and the New School for Social Research gained him a following of devoted musicians. As a scholar, he wrote more than sixty articles and essays on music, as well as five books. He traveled the world in an attempt to elevate the status of American music abroad, and to increase its popularity at home. Through these various commitments to music and to his country, Aaron Copland became one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American music. On December 2, 1990, Aaron Copland died in North Tarrytown, New York.

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  • jeremy Verhines

    he is definitely one of the most inspirational composers of American Music. he was and still is very influential.

  • Kendra Logan

    H3 IZ A G00D C0MP0S3R

  • felisha

    Aaron Copland my chorus teacher Mr.Pendergast gave me a essay to write and he gave me you and I have learned alot of interesting things about you and can’t wait to finish reading about you!

  • cheyenne howllette

    Aaron Copland was a very interestin composer and I think his music was beautiful and he was very talented. I have also had to write an essay on him. he made me look at clasical music differently.

  • Zach

    I gotta do a report. :(

  • Zach

    I like Copland but i h8 reports. :(

  • Morgan

    I’m also doing a report on Aaron Copland. I have found him very inspiring he was an amazing man. I don’t call his music boring or classical!

  • Katrina

    I find it interesting to note the parallels between Copeland and Bernstein (the two composers I’m currently writing an essay on). Both were of Jewish descent, and both worked with Serge Koussevitzky. I know that the music world is a small one, but it’s still very interesting.

  • jimmy yang

    Throughout the ’50s, Copland slowed his work as a composer, and began to try his hand at conducting. He began to tour with his own work as well as the works of other great American musicians. Conducting was a synthesis of the work he had done as a composer and as an organizer. Over the next twenty years he traveled throughout the world, conducting live performances and creating an important collection of recorded work. By the early ’70s, Copland had, with few exceptions, completely stopped writing original music. Most of his time was spent conducting and reworking older compositions. In 1983 Copland conducted his last symphony. His generous work as a teacher at Tanglewood, Harvard, and the New School for Social Research gained him a following of devoted musicians. As a scholar, he wrote more than sixty articles and essays on music, as well as five books. He traveled the world in an attempt to elevate the status of American music abroad, and to increase its popularity at home. Through these various commitments to music and to his country, Aaron Copland became one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American music. On December 2, 1990, Aaron Copland died in North Tarrytown, New York

  • ssayeeda anif

    report its nice to learn about diffrent people. :)

  • Katie Ward

    aaron copland rocks like AC/DC

  • levi

    i hate aaron copland hes realy stupid and boring

  • charles

    he is not a good
    composer i know who is me and icyis

  • Eliza

    I have to says I like Stravinsky better than Copeland

  • Abby

    I had to write a report on Aaron Copland, and i thought he was an interesting and inspiring man! HE ROCKS!!!!!!!!!

  • jj

    i find that he is a good composser and he deserves to be treated with respect and that his music is famouse

  • matthew

    i like copland but i hate doing HW on him

  • Annaerb

    AARON COPLAND RULES! HE IS A FUN AND INTERESTING MAN, AND IM SO SAD THAT HE DIED! it would be fun 2 meet him. i had to do a report on him, and i picked a good one!

  • Jessica

    I had to do a report on Aaron and this website really helped me out! Thanks again! ;D

  • ashley martinez

    had to do a report on hem for choir n i have learded alot about hem is a real good man

  • person

    i’m doing a project on Aaron Copland, his music is bad :( just kiddinggggg!

  • KJ

    im doing a report on him right now im in 8th grade

  • luvuxoxo4

    I haave to do a report on Aaron Copland. I loved doing it!

  • luke

    not bad music copland

  • hey hey

    pretty special yo.

  • cmmr

    i’m doing a report on copeland too, : /

  • miguel

    aaron copland suks

  • mimi

    pretty darn good copland

  • Michael

    Copland is an interesting character: I have to admit that I think the reason he is so famous has less to do with his music than with certain other things: he ws an opportunist. The year after Gershwin made it huge with Rhapsody in Blue, Copland writes HIS piano concerto which was a “mix” between classical and (what was then considered) jazz. In fact, Gershwin wrote some songs to be played by a touring violinist and piano — and when Copland heard of it, so did he. In general, Copland tried to write what was fashionable — even if he wasn’t really interested in it. Listen to the piano concerto imagining Copland’s attitude is: “Jazz is just tunes like these, ‘wrong’ notes, and these rhythms.” Once you hear it that way, it’s clear he was just writing in a style about which he knew nothing. Many of his other “styles” are that way, too. I think his most genuine are the wartime ballets like App. Spring and Rodeo. But when he tries to write “serious” stuff like others, he really does sound pathetic. AND, he really got himself EVERY break. He knew the brass @ The Boston Symphony, so they played his music. One more thing: in 1957, he was commissioned to arrange for orchestra his piano variations from 1930. Thank about that. They didn’t pay him to write new music — they paid him to write “like he used to.” We didn’t WANT any new music by him, because he really didn’t “get” it. Listen to “Connotations”- the piece he wrote for the opening of Avery Fisher Hall in NYC.
    There’s a reason few people know that piece! Ultimately, the US was desperate for an “great American” composer, and we settled for him — and indeed he sold it to us!

  • Cameron

    Well now…there are a lot of people doing a report on Aaron Copland because I am too!

  • brandon

    why was he blacklisted

  • Melissa

    Add me to that list of people doing a report on how Copland contributed to Americana and American music. I believe he was blacklisted originally because he was a modernist composer, Brandon

  • saira khurshid

    hi i’m not doing a report on aaron copland but i am studying his music the ‘fanfare for the common man’ in music and i have to fnid out information about him but i’m finding it really difficult, from my point of view i am a very high leveled student and his life sounds really complicated to me.

  • durka durka

    Hey could some one send me an email telling me a bunch of craap about aaron copland because i have an ISU on him for music and i cant find any good Info on him so send me some info please my email is durka_durka@hotmail.com
    Thanks!

  • What What?!

    im doing this project for band class and im finding a lot of cool info on this dude! like whoa dude!!

  • Ryan

    i just did this report on Aaron and this is one of my best resources

  • Arron Copland report writer

    Thank you for all the information on Aaron. I had to do a report on Aaron Copland and this realy helped. I think his music is so instesting. The way he combined classical music with percussion instruments was really quite amazing.

  • Robert

    Does anyone know a site were I can hear his music. I’m doing a report on him for my music appreciation class and I have to report on his music as well as his life….oh and I cant use wiki which stinks because it gives me the detailed info on him. Like when they tried to “Black List” him…wow!
    Thanks in advance
    pwrhuskers@yahoo.com

  • hihi

    wow… I’m doing a report on him too!
    He’s pretty cool, I love his Hoedown!
    I just wish I didn’t have to write this essay….

  • Garret

    If you have never heard his Grohg, find it and listen!

  • matt

    I seriously find Aaron Copland interesting for both his
    music and history

  • Brittani

    hey i have to do a report on copland, too. anybody got any more good sources on him?? this one is, obviosly but i need omore than one source… thx:-)

  • Jose

    I herd some of his music and it is great

  • Baby Girl

    U ROCK ESPECIALLY UR MUSIC AND I WISh HE WASNT DEAD SO HE COULD MAKE MORE!!!!!!!!!!

  • lydia

    I have to do a critque for Applachian Spring, any one know any websites for ideas

  • jazzyphe ward

    his work is very interesting. he is good at his music.

  • g4 shawty 4rm fly kidz

    he was a hard working man for his success

  • Roxi

    I have just finished writing a thesis on Copland’s significance to American fine art music, and this article was very helpful in getting me to look in the right place. Thanks, PBS guys.

  • P.Jonas

    Aaron copland seems to be a great composer!

  • Brian

    Aaron Copland seems to be a great composer and innovator, and he seems great to do a report on. I am a boy scout and this website really, really helped for the badge I’m working on. I have to do a report on five influential musicians. Many thanks to whoever wrote it!

  • Cam

    thanks so much 2 every1 that helped build this site w/o u i never would have gotten my Aaron Copland project done!!!!! :)

  • .

    Wow this guy is sooo cool!!!:)

  • Josh

    im doing him for a school project and he’s very interesting

  • Cameron

    I think Aarons Appalachian spring was one of the most beautiful peaces of music I’ve ever heard !!!!

  • branden

    I played one of Copland’s peices called “Fanfare For The Common Man” in my concert band. This was a fin piece to play on my tuba as well as listening to the rest of the band play it.

  • Aaron

    I have to do a powerpoint on him. He sounds allright.,

  • Matt

    I too, am doing a report on Copland for my Music Appreciation class. I chose him because I fell absolutely in love with Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s renditions of Hoedown and Fanfare for the Common Man. While I personally find the classical exicution of Fanfare to be a bit of a bore, It’s brilliantly composed, evidenced by the fact that in a different context, the music has a compleatly different attitude, yet conveys the same feeling, and by the fact that regardless of how it’s performed, it’s still quite moving. The consistantly slow pace of the original arrangement simply makes it hard for me to stay engaged.

  • Angel

    he rocks imm doing a powerpoint on him and his music is really interesting and fun.!

  • Amy

    i never liked composers before this guy!
    i have to do a report on him and now i really like him and appreciate his work more than ever(:

  • John

    It seems like everyone has a report on him. I had to do a report on a composer and I chose Copland so I wouldn’t be the boring person like everyone else who does one like Bach, Brahms, or Mozart. There is nothing bad about them, I just like Copland and his music better.

  • Michelle

    I am also giving a report on Copland and i find the site interesting, yet helpful. I nevr tthought bout how important he was. I just knew that he was a musician. I’m glad tht i learnd sumthin new….but eww now i hav 2 go nd write a report on it…fun.

  • California radio stations

    I too, am doing a report on Copland for my Music Appreciation class. I chose him because I fell absolutely in love with Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s renditions of Hoedown and Fanfare for the Common Man. While I personally find the classical exicution of Fanfare to be a bit of a bore, It’s brilliantly composed, evidenced by the fact that in a different context, the music has a compleatly different attitude, yet conveys the same feeling, and by the fact that regardless of how it’s performed, it’s still quite moving. The consistantly slow pace of the original arrangement simply makes it hard for me to stay engaged.

  • B-money

    he is truly a great composer!!! He composed some of the best music

  • pot head

    i love his music and also daft punk and dj raaban

  • Mallory

    I have to do a report on Aaron Copland also, i never knew he was that interesting. But a had a hard time finding info. Aaron is pretty cool!

  • Justin

    I heard Aaron Copland’s EPIC music and m only in 5th grade! If Aaron were alive id ask him coupla questions.

  • Cameron

    Looks like we’re all writing papers over him.
    Thanks PBS, you’ve spent my tax dollars wisely..for once.

  • kitty holmes

    i think aaron copland was a very qood composer , althouqh i hate music !

  • Kristin

    omg he is VERY inspirational, i again dont like hw but at least it is on him, not on someone else…

  • Linnea

    I can not believe some of the comments about such an outstanding composer and the talent he had. I met him at Kansas State University back in the 1970’s and I was in awe of how he conducted his pieces, his manner in the way he expressed himself to the students, his patience and and how he explained how the music was supposed to be expressed. I loved getting to talk to him and watch him as he showed his love of life through his music. A fantastic artist. I really feel blessed to have met him.

  • Mario

    Copland, was a amazing composer! And some could say he is the best composer! i love his music!! Appalachin Spring is my favorite piece ever!! I would love have met him!!

  • D.J.

    copland rocks, reports don’t

  • Meezer3

    I can thank my 8th grade music appreciation teacher over and over again for introducing me to his music, along with others great composers of his time.
    My love for Copland has spanded thos 40+ years from first hearing Appalachian Spring one afternoon those many years ago. I never tire of hearing it. It is truly Americana to my mind. He left us a gift that keeps on giving, not only to us familiar with his works, but to the generations to follow.

  • kristian

    OMG…. i dont even no who this guy is and i have to write a 2 page essay for this in band. i realy do like this composer i have learned alot from him and about him…… :)

  • William

    I have to do a last minute project on this thx so much

  • John Donohue

    Michael, yes the piano concerto is very interesting but I would like to see more information about his Piano Sonata. It was dedicated to Clifford Odets who said about it: “I would not be your true friend if I did not tell you here how beautiful the Sonata sounded on a third and fourth hearing…”
    Composed during the wartime period, Copland’s “Piano Sonata” (1941) is infuenced in style by that time, with a quite nervous and sometimes scary character.
    There is not an overwhelming amount of info available about the work but this page http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=18610 I found a nice performance and a brief discussion with the performer.

  • Agdirgia

    Someone said they liked to compare Gershwin and Copland. Well, yeah, me too. Gershwin was a great composer who made great music. Copland was one of the worst composers ever, and I have trouble calling whatever he wrote music. I would honestly rather listen to nails scraping on a chalkboard for an hour every day than subject myself to Aaron Copland’s “music” for more than 37 seconds. I will, however, say that Fanfare for the Common Man is a cool piece.

  • Tristan Snyder

    Agdirgia, It was due to the efforts of Copland that Gershwin was able to flourish. Aaron Copland was at the forefront of American Music and without him and his compositions classical American music would be hollow and barren.

  • BetterThenYou

    I really like Aaron Copland music

  • Lindsay

    I’m a Sophomore Music Education major and Aaron Copland is probably my most favorite composer of all time! He’s so influential to 20th century music and just so easy to listen to! :)

  • sean

    Copeland like Bernstein are pedophiles that destroyed many young mens lives, they used Plagiarism as a tool to pat themselves on the back, these two ugly, inhuman dogs should be spit on. They were the Pletnev’s of there time and to pump these dogs up as anything but animals is a disgrace. Classical music is nothing but homo’s and lesbo’s living off the people(and the pirates that use stolen money to fund them) under the guise of NFP, that we know is BS because it profits the elites (code word for the people is swine) in stolen money only, dressing up with not a clue about music, especially classical and the sick low life child abusing homo’s they pay are laughing as they live well while destroying young talent sexually, the sick bastards, the only regret i have about these two dead dogs is they didn’t die sooner.

    The whole classical music structure needs to be revamped,the players should be paid the same as the conductor and any homo or lesbo dog should be exposed and fired. I would not go see Pletnev if he was the only musician left, he should be barred, living a lifestyle off the people’s dollar, these conductors are not worth the money they are paid nor the over the top accolades what is wrong with our society, real journalist (not paid assholes)need to do investigative reporting on this NFP BS that classical music has been getting away with, until that happens situations like the LA Phil will continue to live the life of pass maestros, overpaid, undertalented, dog living, phoney, money grubbing(

    .

  • prettyfacemira’

    im doing an report just hearing symphony no 3 really beautiful

  • Luky Romero

    Dear Aaron Copland,

    I do not know if you can read a text under a website after passing away, but I would like to let you know, that you are one of those people who can tell what happiness really is.

  • Timri

    i like this website… i too am doing a report on Copland, and its kindof a bore to just read facts and bios over and over again.. im lovin the opinions on this! i havnt personally heard anyof his music (yet) but i am finding his life to be interesting… but i think the different views and suggestions are great!

  • tyler bro

    This guy was an incredible topic for my band assignment and he truly changed the face of music.

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