Saturday, March 13, 2010

Copland: Appalachian Spring


Aaron Copland (1900 - 1990)

This week we listened to Copland’s Appalachian Spring.  I told the kids that I chose this song because it reminded me of their dad – Strong, Americana, a Pioneer.  Appalachian Spring was written in 1944 as Copland’s third ballet score.   It was later re-written as an orchestral suite, but we can still follow the storyline throughout its eight sections, which Copland describes as:
  1. Very slowly.  Introduction of the characters one by one, in a suffused light.
  2. Fast.  Sudden burst of unison strings in A major arpeggios starts the action.  A sentiment both elated and religious give gives the keynote to this scene.
  3. Moderate.  Duo for the Bride and her Intended – scene of tenderness and passion.
  4. Quite fast.  The Revivalist and his flock.  Folksy feeling – suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.
  5. Still faster.  Solo dance of the Bride – presentiment of motherhood.  Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.
  6. Very slowly (at first).  Transition scene to music reminiscent of the introduction.
  7. Calm and Flowing.  Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer husband.
  8. Moderate.  Coda.  The Bride takes her place among her neighbors.  At the end, the couple is left “quiet and strong in their new house.” (Condensed from Wikipedia) 


My favorite section is number seven in which, like finding the prize inside a cereal box, we discover the Shaker melody, “Simple Gifts”.  Much to my amazement, none of my four children (and even my educated mother!) had ever heard of this familiar folk tune! This piece launched Copeland’s popularity and in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his achievement.

Kid Critique

Anna:  It sounds like a celebration!
Arielle:  I like the fast part because it’s exciting, but I like the beginning the best because it feels calm.
Ella:  It’s happy.
Samuel:  Can we listen to classic rock instead of classical?

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