Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews

Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews

Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews

Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews


The contributors to Copland Connotations - both American and British - include the leading figures in Copland studies. Pre-eminent among these is Vivian Perlis, whose two-volume memoirs were written in collaboration with the composer himself; then Howard Pollack, whose substantial biography of Copland has been acclaimed; and also other established specialists in American music such as Stephen Banfield, William Brooks, Mark DeVoto, Peter Dickinson, David Schiff, Larry Starr and the distinguished analyst Arnold Whittall. Brilliant studies from young scholars are a special feature - Jessica Burr, Jennifer DeLapp, Sally Bick, Daniel E. Mathers and Marta Robertson. These all offer exciting new perspectives on Copland's work; unique reflections on his private life; and indicate the undoubted vitality of his appeal to future generations.The British-based team of authors, along with Anthony Burton, David Nicholls and Bayan Northcott, engages in a lively open forum discussion covering many issues in connection with Copland and his work. And finally Copland Connotations brings Copland himself into the picture by providing transcriptions of two previously unpublished interviews Copland gave to Peter Dickinson at Keele University in 1976.


H. Wiley Hitchcock

In 1980 the American journal Perspectives of New Music published an issue
celebrating Aaron Copland's eightieth birthday, to which I contributed a short
article titled 'Aaron Copland and American Music'. It began this way:

For many people, Aaron Copland seems to be American music. It's not easy to
think of another American composer with so distinctive a voice, or one who is so
unarguably recognized the world over as a 'major' composer. Few alive today can
even imagine an American musical culture without Copland at the center of it: he
has been a forceful, dominant, and much beloved presence ever since he came
back to the States from study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger in 1921―24.... Now,
Copland's composing days are over, but he is still active as a conductor, is busily
at work on an autobiography, and continues to support in various ways young
American composers in particular and American music in general.

'Support' is a key word. Copland's long career was one centered in support of, and in service to, music in general and American music in particular. This is true of his work as a composer, as an organizer and promoter of other composers, and as a writer and speaker. Because of this, more than any other musician of his generation Copland signified, I think, a new degree of selfhood for American music. One way this is true is in the yea-saying, optimistic aura of his music. It declares that life as an American composer has precious and cherishable values. Copland wrote, in his Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University during 1951―52, published as Music and Imagination, 'Negative emotions cannot produce art.... You cannot make art out of fear or suspicion; you can make it only out of affirmative beliefs.' In a commencement address at Brooklyn College in 1975, he volunteered, 'Agony I don't connect with. Not even alienation.' Far from it; and that is a major message of his music. As he put it on the same occasion:

I have had a broad experience and can summarize that experience, I think, by saying that the work of a composer such as myself implies a kind of positive and affirmative attitude toward one's life. The sense of having one's own contribution to make ... makes one feel that the life one has led has had meaning, certainly for one's self and, one hopes, for one's fellow man.

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