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Expert Opinion
from Minnesota Monthly, November 2000

For Copland's centenary, Minnesota Monthly turned to Minnesota's musical experts for their take on Copland's American sound.

Libby Larsen, Composer
Libby Larsen
Copland valued our nation's folk music and studied it carefully, incorporating it into his work and translating it through his traditional classical training. The results are some of his most beloved works, including "Hoedown" from Rodeo, originally Bonaparte's Retreat, a fiddle tune transcribed by composer Ruth Crawford Seeger. Copland combined the best of his traditional training with his great respect for the music of America, to create music that is generally considered the epitome of classical American music of the 1900s.

John Birge, MPR Classical Music Host
John Birge
Several of Copland's works have direct American inspiration. He quotes American folk songs, and his harmonies suggest folk music, but always in an original context. The simplicity of his music belies its sophistication.
And what does it mean to sound "American"? Clearly, those dancing buckaroos in Rodeo aren't from Uzbekistan! But be careful of the indoctrinating clichés of the Beef Council commercial. Consider what Copland himself said: "The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer to that would be, 'Yes.' And, 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.'

Julie Amacher, MPR Classical Music Host
Julie Amacher
Copland truly believed that composers had to turn to their own heritage for inspiration and source materials. He turned to American folk idioms. He pulled out a few cowboy songs and sprinkled them into the ballet music for Billy the Kid. He researched traditional folk songs and incorporated them into his works. He developed his own voice through his use of spiky orchestration and wide intervals, which created the image of wide open prairies. Before long, Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring were considered as American as apple pie.

Eiji Oue, Music Director, the Minnesota Orchestra
Eiji Oue
Copland's music is best described as spacious. He creates a sense of space that reflects a description of America. His music has a large spacious spirit with a deep horizon.

Bill McGlaughlin, Host, Saint Paul Sunday
Bill McGlaughlin
I can think of several elements that contribute to the "American-ness" of Aaron Copland's music: his use of wide, open harmonic intervals which suggest space and horizon, his brilliant adaptation of American folk materials from cowboy songs to jazz rhythms. But I really feel the greatest component of Aaron's sound comes simply from his heart. His vision of himself and of us is built on the model of Emerson and Whitman; he sees us as a large-spirited, energetic, unpretentious, honest and sentimental people, and his music sounds like us.

Read more about Copland's American Sound | Copland 10x10 Home


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