Copland Essay

This essay has a total of 1148 words and 6 pages.


Copland wrote a ballet about one of the most famous "western gangsters" in history: Billy
the Kid. The work was written in 1938 and remained popular for over a decade.
Unfortunately, his works are no longer

heard or performed often enough today. In my opinion, Copland is one of the greatest
American performers in music history, but he is not given the recognition he deserves by
today's society. By looking at Copland's works

and analyzing his "Billy the Kid," the necessary proof of his greatness will, without
question, show the fact that he is one of the greatest American composers of all time.

Aaron Copland, whose family name was changed from Kapland by immigration officials in New
York, was born on November 14, 1900 and died December 2, 1990. His parents were of
Lithuanian Jewish descent. His parents emigrated from Russia to the United States. His
father owned a department store and they did not live lavishly. As he explained, "I was
born on November 14, 1900 on a street in Brooklyn that can only be Geruso 2 described as
drab. It had none of the garish color of the ghetto, none of the charm of an old New
England thoroughfare, or even a pioneer street...."He began to take piano lessons at the
age of fourteen under the tutelage of his sister Laurine.

Soon he wanted more professional lessons. Despite the fact that his four elder siblings
had taken lessons with no success, he convinced his parents to pay for lessons. "I
distinctly remember with what fear and trembling I

knocked on the door of Mr. Leopold Wolfsohn's piano studio on Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn,
and-once again all by myself-arranged for piano lessons." The idea of composing music was
not "connected...with my family or with my

street." By the age of 18 he had graduated high school and decided to devote all his time and energy to music.
Under the direction of Rubin Goldmark he studied the theory of harmony and the works of Chopin, Haydn,
Beethoven, Wagner, Hugo Wolf, Debussy, and Scriabin. Finally his studies led him to France
at the age of 21, where he studied under Paul Vidal for a short period of time and then
under Mlle. Boulanger for three years. Before

returning to America, in 1924, Mlle. Nadia Boulanger asked Mr. Copland to write her a
piece to perform on an American tour. He accepted and wrote "Symphony for organ and
orchestra, with Walter Camrosch as conductor and

Nadia Boulanger as soloist...." Also during this time, he wrote The Cat and the Mouse and
a Passacaglia which "made him known to a large and influential public and definitely
established his position in American

musical life."
His musical career took off from there with invitations to write original pieces for
concerts, tours, and such groups as the Boston Symphony. In 1938, Copland wrote a ballet
about William Bonney. William grew

up in Brooklyn, New York, Aaron's hometown. At the age of 12 he saw his mother shot by a
wayward bullet during a street brawl. Following this he stabbed the man responsible for
his mother's death. This is the first of

several murders William commits. Later in life he is accused of cheating during a card
game and kills the accuser. Finally, he is captured after a showdown and jailed. To flee
from prison, he slayed his jailer and escaped.

William then meets his lover in the desert and is murdered by his boyhood
companion-turned-sheriff Pat Garrett. All of these actions gained young William the
nickname "Billy the Kid." Copland's rendition includes many

classic cowboy tunes. For example, in the first scene, entitled Street in a Frontier Town,
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