American Mavericks: Aaron Copland (Meet the Composer, 1985)

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Tim Page interviews Aaron Copland on From Meet the Composer, 1985.

Copland says that composers differ greatly in the way they react to how American you should sound, nevertheless, they music write music people want to hear. In the 1920s when American music was starting to make its appearance it became a preoccupation of Copland’s to write a serious concert style of music with an American flavor. He suggests that jazz should influence so-called ‘serious’ music.

Copland recalls his first encounters with music despite the fact that no one in his family had any professional artistic leanings. He talks about his time spent in Paris and how it was a significant influence on him – especially his teacher Nadia Boulanger. He recalls a story about visiting to Serge Koussevitzky with Boulanger, Koussevitzky’s predictions that he would write a symphony for organ and orchestra for both Koussevitzky and Boulanger:   It happened.

Copland’s Piano Variations, published in 1932 are played, with William Maizales as soloist.

The composer comments on his fascination with the American west and his work with dancer and choreographer Martha Graham and the resulting work, Appalachian Spring. She had given him an outline with what would happen in the ballet but he says the main element was his familiarity with her style. While some are disappointed, Copland says he was not thinking of Appalachian Mountains when he wrote it the work. “You can credit Martha Graham with that” because he was only thinking of Graham and her dance style when he wrote it.

Copland says that one wish of his was never fullfilled: he never met Charles Ives. He relates a story about receiving a package from Ives of self-published songs.