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Copland: Appalachian Spring

October 18, 2019

On today's episode, Bruce Adolphe the resident lecturer of CMS talks about Copland's Appalachian Spring. Excerpts performed by Bruce Adolphe, piano.

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolph. Resident lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever-growing archive of videos made available live and on demand. Chamber Music Society Talk.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lecture as we experiment with performance issues. Today's podcast features a lecture on Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, originally recorded February 22, 2012. Good to have you all back and today, after two lectures on Debussy and one on Gershwin, we get to Aaron Copland.

Before I get into his music, I want to say some things about the Gershwin Copland connection. They had a lot of similarities. First of all, they were born two years apart. Aaron Copland 1900, Which makes it very easy to always know how old he is. Just, if you know what year the piece was. And then Gershwin two years before.

But they were also two Jewish boys who were born in Brooklyn, and they both came from families that were very working class. And they both announced to their parents in their teens, when they were in their teens, they announced they did not want to go to college. They wanted to just go right into the music world somehow or other.

And in both cases, the parents said, “Fine.” Yeah, I see some of you are surprised. You're thinking Jewish family in Brooklyn? That's okay not to go to college? I think this is probably of all the things we talk about today, this is the most interesting because I remember that Gershwin, you know, he just started writing music and writing songs, went into Tin Pan Alley, which was a real place.

And he, at 19, came up with the song Swanee, which may not seem like a musical revolution to us, but it made him so much money that he was able to pay for everything else and always take care of his family and etc. That was not true for Copland. But they both decided to go to France to study.

And when Copland got to France, he studied first at Fontainebleau, and then he went quickly to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. And that's the same person you will remember that Gershwin would like to have studied with. He met Boulanger after first asking Ravel if you recall, he asked Ravel, “Could I study with you?” And what did Ravel say?

“I'd only make you a bad Gershwin- a bad Ravel, and you're already such a good Gershwin.” But then he passed his protege, which never happened, to Nadia Boulanger. And she said famously, ‘I have nothing to teach you.” Good. I see you memorized my lecture. And so, in fact, one studied with Boulanger and, Gershwin, the other did not.

But they did have a composition teacher in common. Reuben Goldmark. They both studied with Reuben Goldmark in Manhattan. Now, Reuben Goldmark is a name today that probably only means, if it means anything to people, the teacher of Copland and Gershwin. But he actually, in his time, was a very famous composer. It didn't last very long, but he did have a splurge of fame.

He studied with Dvořák, which made a direct link to the old world. He was a very conservative composer. But the interesting thing is, if you think of Porgy and Bess and work backwards, there's a direct line here because Dvořák, when he came to start the Musical Institute in America, he was the first head of the Music School of New York and trying to make a national conservatory.

Dvořák said that what America does not have is its own sound, its own art music sound. And he said, “What you have to do is listen to the folk music of America and use it as a composer to make your own statements.” And he encouraged people to listen to Native American music, which he himself borrowed, Dvořák. And excuse me, and to listen to African American music.

And he was so interested in Negro spirituals as they called them then, that he made it free to go to that school for all black students. So this is an amazing step of Dvořák's in the beginning, in the late 19th century, he opened up his conservatory free only to black students. Then he also taught black students, of course, and one of them was Marian Cook, who became one of the great jazz players and was also a classic violinist who was one of the first people to bring jazz to Europe.

Among his students was Reuben Goldmark, who taught Copland and Gershwin, both of whom had already been indoctrinated through this whole Dvořák, Goldmark situation, that there is something to black music that you should look at. And of course, it was happening by time Gershwin was born anyway. But more and more it became a serious thing. How do you do this?

Goldmark wrote a piece called the Negro Rhapsody, which nobody plays, but they did and don't think it didn't have an influence on the composer of Porgy and Bess. Are you thinking that? Don't. So he also wrote a piece called Hiawatha. So that shows you that Goldmark was a good student. He listened to Dvorak. Native American music? Hiawatha. Black music and the Negro Rhapsody.

So he did. He was a very good student. He was, in fact, not a good teacher. He was too conservative. He was too strict. He taught very obvious boring rules, which is why Gershwin left after three lessons. And not only was Gershwin bored, but he told Gershwin that he really liked what he had learned with him in those three lessons.

That these exercises were beautiful, but those were the same things that Gershwin brought him before for the first lesson that he had written before he met him. So he wasn't paying attention. And when Gershwin realized he wasn't paying attention and that he took credit for having taught him something he knew already, he left. Copland wrote a funny story about his first lesson with Goldmark.

It was on West 87th Street, and he went very nervously to study- I don't know if you ever heard recordings of Copland talk, but there are many you can find them. He said, “harmony.” And he said, “So I wanted to hear some- I wanted to study harmony.” I won't imitate him any more. But it brings back a world, old New York way of talking.

He wanted to study harmony so much and he was very scared. And on 87th Street, on the plaque right on the doorway, it said Dr. Reuben Goldmark. So he was terrified. I know. I'm sorry. It just said Dr. Goldmark not. Dr. Reuben Goldmark So he goes in and he sits in, waits and waits, and a woman comes out and says, “The doctor will see you.”

So he goes into the office and he sits in this doctor's office, and Dr. Goldberg says, Goldmark. Sorry. Dr. Goldmark says, “So what's the matter with you?” And he says, “I don't know if you would say that something's the matter. I just want to study harmony.” And he said, “That's my brother. Fourth floor.” Great little story. So they both studied with Goldmark.

Although that didn't do anything. They both went to Paris. Now, what did they see in Paris? Well, of course, the Paris of the twenties was obsessed with American music. And so there's the great irony of composers from America, quite a lot of them, going to Paris to discover what it means to be an American composer because it was filled with American jazz at the time.

But they were all trying to study with Nadia Boulanger. Who was she? She wasn't even a composer. She was a great teacher. She wrote a little bit. It was her sister, Lili Boulanger, who was a great composer, but who died at 27. And when her sister died, Nadia Boulanger went into a lifelong grieving. So she would only teach.

Apparently she was also very talented, but she would only teach. And she dedicated everything, all her efforts to her sister's memory. So it was a kind of a sad situation. Copland thought when he met her that she was, as he said, late, middle aged, perhaps older. But she was 34. But he was 20, so he had no way of knowing.

What did they see in the clubs? Well, you probably know that they saw Josephine Baker, So if you don't know what that looks like here is and I'm not even going to say anything about it because this is a television clip. They didn't have television yet. This was a movie clip from the theaters with its own announcer explaining exactly what you're seeing. (music)

(inaudible) recently came to light in America. It's probably shown (inaudible) as a short film before the main feature. Censors saw to it that Josephine was dressed rather would be good for the more modestly than she was to Paris audiences, but the setting is exactly the same. . This is Josephine Baker on the stage of La Revue Nègre at a moment of musical history.

Here you have it. Good. Okay. So that's that's what they were used to seeing. Copland became very, very influenced by Igor Stravinsky. You may know that he's called, even today, although he did better than this. He was called the Brooklyn Stravinsky. Gershwin wrote very few articles in his life, articles in journals, but he wrote a famous article about American music in which he said that Aron Copland could have been a great American composer.

Don't forget, this was about 1933 or 34, but he failed because he was too influenced by Stravinsky and Schoenberg. Now, it's a very interesting comment coming from Gershwin, and it's not true that he failed. But it is interesting, the perspective, because you can't help but hear the Stravinsky or the Schoenberg in Copland, depending on what piece of his you're looking at.

But he took it in so well, he digested it and it became part of his inflection, natural inflection, and he made it American. And that is exactly what we're going to look at with Appalachian Spring. Where's the Stravinsky and where's the Copland? Now, of course, Appalachian Spring, he wrote it in 1943. It was premiered in ‘44. So Gershwin never heard a lot of this piece and a lot of his greatest works.

Interestingly, Gershwin held up as an example of the best American composer so far who had an American sound. The fella we heard last week who wrote Skyscrapers. Remember the thing that was very, very, very influenced by Petrushka to the point where we could hear quotes from Petrushka. He actually quoted Skyscrapers as being the best American piece so far, and that's John Alden Carpenter.

And of course, we know now in retrospect he was horribly, if you want to say, influenced by Stravinsky, much more than Copland. And he didn't- maybe influence isn't the word. He stole from Stravinsky. And Stravinsky kind of permeated the thought process of Copland. Now, people usually say, if you talk to people about Copland and Stravinsky, this is what they'll tell you.

If you ever have that conversation. They'll tell you that it was Nadia Boulanger who introduced him to Stravinsky. Well, that's true. And it was because of her that he became obsessed with Stravinsky. But that's not true because he wrote one piece when he, before he went to France, while he was still a kid in Brooklyn. And that piece already has Petrushka and a lot of Stravinsky and some Debussy in it.

He had already heard Petrushka. Petrushka was composed in 1911 and Copland didn't go to France until 1921. And by the time he got there he was raring to meet Stravinsky, but it was through Boulanger that he met her and she had, whatever teacher she was, I mean, he loved her as a teacher, but whatever her teaching may have been like she had on Wednesday afternoons, a little tea party where her mother would serve tea, and the guests were usually Picasso, Stravinsky, James Joyce, Hemingway and her students.

So this is not the kind of thing you want to miss, you see. And they would leave their brand new handwritten scores on her piano so her students could thumb through them, and then they would come collect them. So he did get a chance to look at unpremiered scores of Stravinsky. So, you could see how this would affect someone who already loved Stravinsky.

And who was looking to find his own way. Now, what is that piece he wrote? It's called Cat and Mouse, and it changed his life. Copland wrote the piece in Brooklyn, but when he got to Fontainebleau, he needed to play something on the piano to impress people. So he only had one piece so far. He hadn't even met Nadia Boulanger, so he played his Cat and Mouse.

After the concert, a young composer's dream come true. Durand, who is the editor, the publisher, of Debussy and Ravel himself, comes up to the 21 year old Copland and says, “I want to publish that piece.” So what did he do first? He wrote a letter home. “You’re not going to believe it. Durand, the publisher of Debussy, wants my piece.” And it took a long time.

But it did come out and it changed his life. You may not know this piece. It is performed now and then, but here is some of it. Now, what are you going to hear? It’s very important to have someone tell you what you're going to hear before you hear it. But I'll just give you what to listen for. A phrase of Copland's, what to listen for, which I happen to like. What to listen for in this piece is whole tone scales.

Remember those? They're all the rage from Debussy. Whole tone runs. Also the Petrushka chord in different keys and a few other devices like the octatonic scale, which is also something he heard only from Stravinsky and glissandos. And it sounds like a cat and mouse running around on the keys. And you have to understand that this music in 1921, which he actually wrote it a few years earlier, coming from a teenager so inventive, so in tune with Stravinsky, so in tune with Debussy and Ravel, absolutely flabbergasted everybody

He had actually composed it while he was studying with Ruben Goldmark, but he didn't show it to him because he knew he wouldn't like it. It was way too out for him. But then when it was published by Durand, he sent a copy to Ruben Goldmark, who wrote a letter saying, “This is a wonderful piece. I like it.

It's not too far out for me.” So he was wrong about it. Okay, so here's a little bit of that piece. (music)

Well, it goes on and it gets quite wild. But you can see or hear right away that it also is not a formally structured piece. It is completely improvisatory. And the freedom of it, too, was so daring and Boulanger liked it too. And one of the great things about Nadia Boulanger as a teacher was that even though she was 34, she was still interested in what was going on.

And Copland wrote, I never saw him put those two things together, but he was amazed that she was interested in what was being written in her time. And so, you know, and that- but what did she teach? She taught voice leading, fugue, counterpoint, score reading. And I know very well what it was like to study with her, because when I was a student at Juilliard, I studied with a person who was pretty much exactly the same name, Renée Longy.

And she was not 34 when I studied with her. She was 86. And the first thing she said at the first class was, “It is not true that I had an affair with Claude Debussy.”

Of course, it was impossible. It couldn't have been true, but it was still interesting. And she tried to be the American Boulanger, Nadia Boulanger. But what Boulanger also did was typical of what composition teaching became in America later through people like Aaron Copland himself, which was to look at a score of a young composer, not to make it sound like your own music, like the teacher's music. Not to make it sound like anything in particular, but to see where it goes off. Where is it not consistent with itself? With itself.

And that kind of teaching was new and she did that. She would look through a score and say, “But if you are writing like this, what is this about? You've gone off. You're writing like Stravinsky, which is wonderful.” She always like that. But if you've become too tame or it sounds to something else, you know. So she was very good at that.

Now, Copland, very consciously, just like George Gershwin, was trying to figure out, how do I make an American sound? He wasn't the only one trying to figure it out. Virgil Thompson, who I think completely failed. But that's, I don't say that too often. This is one of the only- I can think of three composers that I have such a low opinion of, but so don't get offended.

But I think he was pretty much a disaster. But he was studying also with Nadia Boulanger, and he decided that the way to make a French sound was to imitate Satie. Okay, whatever. That didn't work too well. But Satie, of course, was influenced by American popular music as well. So what Copland did was he looked at the music he loved and he looked at American music.

The music he loved mostly was Stravinsky at that time, and he looked at American popular music and he thought, “How do I put these two things together?” Now I'm not making this up. He actually even wrote an article which I'm going quote from musically, where he explained what was interesting to him about jazz. Now we know the Copland wrote a lot of jazz influenced music, but then he suddenly stopped doing that.

He did it in the twenties and in the early thirties, just like Gershwin. But then he pulled back and I think he pulled back for a few reasons. One, he rightly assumed that it might get dated and he didn't want that. Secondly, a lot of other people were doing it really well and Gershwin was one of those people and they met many times and they didn't really have as as Copland said, “We didn't have much to talk about. ”

How could that be true?

Two Jewish boys from Brooklyn both studied with Reuben Goldmark, both went to France, both writing American music, and they had nothing to talk about. Well, that just shows you that there was some problem with the Gershwin phenomenon. In fact, you know, Copland was a very magnanimous, generous musician. He taught a lot of people. He helped people's careers. He started organizations like crazy.

Nobody except William Schumann later started as many organizations for American music as Aaron Copland. But when it came to Gershwin, he had a problem. Gershwin's name was left off all the lists of American composers that Aaron Copland wrote. Always. In fact, Gershwin complained about it, too, and he was aware of that. So there was some problem. And he did say that Gershwin wasn't really a composer, exactly.

He was a songwriter who was trying to be a composer. And I think he probably backed away from that later because he lived to be 90, which is what, year? 1990. And so I think he gained a different perspective. But it was never a subject that was close to his heart. But here is what he said about rhythm in jazz and what was interesting to him personally after his jazz phase.

Interestingly, in this article, the thing he picks as Jazz is by Gershwin, and it isn't exactly jazz, it's Clap Your Hands, which goes like this. (music)

Now, did you notice the one interesting rhythm there is, it goes, what seems like goes into three four from four. It goes like this one, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three.

Now, of course, that's a syncopation. It goes into one, two, three, one, two, three, and it goes back to four. So the rhythm (singing) So he never leaves for four time. So you can dance to it and you can clap your hands to it too. (music) See, if you don't listen to the bass, you might not even catch the three four.

So Copland's article says what interested him was only that it moved into three four and he would like to stop right there. So this is what he wrote down. (music) He said, “I like that.” So he might, you might think if I take away the baseline... (music) I mean, I'm just fooling around. But basically this is where you can cut off a piece of music and you think, wait a minute, it goes into four, then it goes into three.

It's starting to have shifting rhythms like Stravinsky. So there's a relationship between Stravinsky and Gershwin or between American popular song and Stravinsky. Why was this important? Because Stravinsky had demonstrated that you can take Russian folk music and with amazing new rhythms where you splice up the rhythms in new patterns, create something completely new, revolutionary even, very personal to Stravinsky.

But that it’s rooted in Russian tradition so it sounds Russian. At the same time this sounds new and international, cosmopolitan and Parisian. This is brilliant. So Copland thought quite consciously, “I want to do that with American music.” And that's what he did. So and I'll keep hammering that at you in different ways. So what we need to do now is take a look at and listen to Appalachian Spring.

I'm going to show you a couple of dance clips from it as well. There's a lot to say about Appalachian Spring, but before I do, I don't want to forget one little image. I want to show you. This is a still image.

Who is that? That's right. It's George Gershwin. But who is the sculptor? Who did the sculpture?

Noguchi. This is a sculpture by Noguchi, who also was the set designer for Martha Graham. So here's another little connection. He did busts of Martha Graham and Gershwin and was the set designer for Martha Graham. I just think that's a nice little visual connection. It's not one likely to forget, but in the style, too. And the fact that it's black in color was important because in fact, let's see if I can do this.

Can you see that? It's very small, but that's an African sculptor. A sculpture. And then let's see if I can find these little things. This is the set, not by Noguchi, but this is a set for la crecia du monde that was used for for the mieux that you heard last time, which was the piece that anticipated Rhapsody in Blue.

Okay. But what I really want to show you is a film, a video. And I have to introduce it briefly.

Copland like to tell a certain story that I feel obliged to tell about Appalachian Spring because he told it in every interview. So if you listen to 25 interviews about Aaron Copland, he will in every one of them tell this story. So I think I better tell it to you. Martha Graham asked him to write a ballet. Of course, it was Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge who commissioned it and he went to work.

Did he know the storyline? No. Did he know a title? No. He knew nothing. He only knew her dancing and he loved what he saw. And he felt that it was very American and very angular and very modern and very special. And he wanted to create something that was particularly American. He was still in a phase where that meant certain rhythmic techniques of Stravinsky would be used, but he really needed to be American.

So he knew he would quote at the end The Gift to be Simple, the famous Shaker tune. But most of the piece is not that that's just the ending, these set of variations. So when he came to Martha Graham with the music and played it for her, she was very excited. And he said, Do you have a name for this?

And she said, “Yes, I'm calling it Appalachian Spring.” And he said, “That's a wonderful title. Is it- where did you get it?” And she said, “I got it from a poem by Hart Crane.” And he said, “Well, is that what it's about? Is it about an Appalachian Spring?” And she said, “No, no, it's not. It's just I like the sound of it.”

It's simply it's about pioneers. Well, I want to read you the text where the phrase Appalachian Spring appears and you'll you'll notice immediately that the spring is not springtime. It's a spring of water. So everything about it that people think is wrong. But Copland, the rest of the story before I get there is that Copland loved to say that audiences for years and years would come up to him and say, Whenever I hear that music, I smell springtime and I can see the Appalachian Mountains.

And, you know, he never tells people in those instances that he had no idea what that there was, what the title or the story or anything would be when he wrote the music. Of course, that doesn't mean that you couldn't smell those things anyway. That does happen. But you can't blame them for it. This is the text, “Oh, Appalachian Spring.

I gained the ledge steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends and northward reaches in that violet wedge of Adirondacks. I think this is fantastic, you know, and it's basically just standing on the edge and looking at this beautiful spring, not spring day, spring water. So let's hear a little bit. Let's watch a little bit of Appalachian Spring. This is not the very first performance, although that does exist on a video on YouTube as well.

But it's just very, very hard to see and the music is not aligned properly. Here is a later performance, but it still has Martha Graham in it and Stuart Hodes and all kinds of famous people. And this is right from the beginning of Appalachian Spring. So remember, it's the music we'll be talking about, but it's also good to see what it is.

And the set is by Noguchi. (music)

Sorry to stop it, but you can watch this on YouTube. We have now heard enough music that I can talk about quite a lot, and it will relate to your handouts, but I want to relate something. Nadia Boulanger said to Copland, her main points in teaching that relate to what you're looking at because visually it was the same for Noguchi and for Martha Graham.

Very simple, almost almost obvious that the two things that matter to Martha- to Nadia Boulanger were that each note should be chosen carefully. That may sound obvious, but, you know, that's not how Gershwin thought about it. You know, in other words, it's not improvisatory anymore. It's not gushing. It's very controlled. Every note costs. That's how Copland translated it.

He said. I choose the note that costs. That idea became typical. Now, it wasn't new, but it was new in America, of this very careful, controlled high level of composition as opposed to the more spontaneous kind of improvisatory thing. But the other thing was long line. So she said she looked always for a long line. It didn't mean it had to be a long melody, but that there had to be a line that you could follow, an arc.

And that arc should be articulated by correctly chosen notes. Alright? So when she looked at his music, she would say, “This note’s-” she would choose individual notes. I know exactly what that felt like because that's how both of my- well, I studied composition with several people, but two of them did exactly the same thing. One was Vincent Persichetti, who I studied with when I was 16, who was a Copland disciple, actually.

And another was Milton Babbitt, who sounds nothing like that world, but agreed completely with the idea of the carefully chosen note. Now, that's why I say at some level it's obvious, but I think the best expression in words that I've seen of this esthetic actually comes from Noguchi when he was describing his set for Appalachian Spring. This is what he wrote. “New land, new home, new life, a testament to the American settler, a folk theater.

I attempted, through the elimination of all essentials, to arrive at an essence of the stark pioneer spirit. That essence which flows out to permeate the stage. It is empty, but full at the same time. It is like shaker furniture.” Now, that's perfect. That's exactly a description of what Copland's esthetic as learned from of his French teacher, was the empty but full. That, you know, the perfect line.

That set was a perfect example of that. And the music is just like it. Now, if you look at your handouts, I'm going to take you through Copland's compositional technique. Now, let's get- it's going to get really technical now. Okay.

The very first thing we're going to look at, I'll play each little musical example first is this. We already heard this with the dance, but I want you to hear the music for its own sake. (music) Okay. Now, first of all, the entire slow introduction, that beautiful music only consists of three chords, A major and the dominant of that.

And it's sub dominant. And there for several minutes, exactly 3 minutes and 19 seconds, in this performance, there is not one note that isn't diatonic. Every note is an A major note. There are no accidentals that are not part of the key. There is nothing chromatic. I'm saying the same thing in different ways. And the reason I'm stressing that is for a piece in 1943, premiered in 44, to have a long stretch of music where everything is just the three primary chords (music) and even the tunes are just the chords was very strange, very peaceful.

It's beautiful. Nobody thought it was not beautiful, but nobody was writing like that. It was so pure that popular music seemed dissonant next to it. You see what I mean? Very pure. Then that passage that you just heard, it starts with a simple A major- he still hasn't gone out of A major. And then he gets into his Stravinsky-isms, which are very Copland-esque. (music) This thing. (music) Now, right here, this is where your page starts.

The A is being held and we hear this. (music) Ah-ha. We are now breaking out of the keys and this is where the dance really begins. Up to that point, people are walking on. Of course, he didn't know that she choreographed it to the music, so he wasn't thinking of anything in particular, but he might have thought of an introduction like this.

Then it comes alive. When it comes alive, suddenly the chords are each separately, a major chord, not in A major. A flat, G, F, and finally a chord from A major, the dominant which can go. These are all major chords. Then the next technique though, and this is very Stravinsky is, and it also comes from that description of Clap Your Hands.

You take the rhythm (singing) and you compress it. So from (singing) we get (singing) like this. (music) Not yet. Now. See that? Instead of stopping every other note, it's connected. And I'll skip a moment. Look at the bottom of the page. Same page. (music) This is the same technique, but with a little more interest.

It's a little more complex. The first idea is in four. Then he removes, again, exactly the same thing. He removes an eighth note. Instead of (singing) we get (music) So he just shortens it. But we still have a quarter at the end. So he's making it shorter from eight eight notes, which is four 4 to 7 notes. Just.

But then when he brings it back, he adds a note. (music) And that note brings back that motif of the little major chord. This technique relates to Stravinsky's technique, which really now has been recognized as being the musical equivalent of cubism. Because you take a plane of music, if you want to call it a plane. And I don't mean the American great plains with perfect fifths of Aaron Copland.

I just mean a plane of music like of canvas, and you slice it up in new configurations, just the way Picasso or Braque would have divided a face up and look at its geometric planes and have them intersect in unusual ways. This is the same idea. It's a compositional exercise. If you are somebody who can write out notes, here's a really fun exercise.

Take a piece that's in four four time, copy out the notes without the bar lines and, then put all new bar lines in different time signatures and then accent them where the time signatures go and see if it doesn't sound like Stravinsky or Copland. It may not sound exactly like it, but it gets you in that direction because the division of beats was a brand new concept and it is like cubism to do that.

Now, let's go, let's back up a little bit where it says example two we still have in the bottom, (music) but we have now sixth notes repeated on top and then three and then three. I'll play that again. Those notes are simply going up the scale and they're not coordinated with the harmonies. But then he does it again. And notice, I've barred it for you, that not only does it start in a different place, it's starting on an upbeat, but we have five and four and three. Otherwise, so it is now realigned.

The planes are intersecting geometrically differently. (music) I'll do that again. So he's considering the scale on top as separate from those chords on the bottom and changing the number of repetitions of the scales, like separate planes. They have nothing to do with each other, but they start together and they end together.

I'm going to talk about his harmony for a while, and then I'm going to go back to the rhythm and harmony and make it so clear that you can be a Copland composer when you leave. Because I feel that there's clarity coming, but I don't feel it yet. Okay, so let's take a look. But I'm prepared for that.

I've got something that will make it clear as can be. But now let's take a look at some of the harmony that's quite beautiful and very Copland-esque and I'll compare that also to Gershwin and things we've been talking about. Here's something from a little bit later on in the piece. Sorry, my finger is very overly sensitive for this iPad.

Well, this is close enough. (music)

This is page two of your handout. Now, this is very Copland-esque harmony. It's really his own. Unlike a popular song or actually even Rhapsody in Blue or American in Paris, these chords are not really chords with names. A few of them have names, but these are carefully chosen notes that are placed in an exact spot. This is what composing often is, and they have relationships to each other.

And some of them might have a name, but some of them don't. And now let me go through that with you. For example, first we hear a B major chord, (music) and then it goes to an F sharp minor chord. Alright, so far, so good. This is (music) but it's not major. In other words, this is not a major key or a minor key.

I've actually taken your notes for you. It's all written out there. This is the mixolydian mode. What is that? It's a scale that goes like this. (music) So instead of... it's a very old mode, but it doesn't stay there for long because what Copland is doing and, as I said, I wrote it out for you there. In words too. He’s writing, very careful part harmony, as if this was being sung by a choir and the voice leading is very, very traditional.

But he's moving in and out of different modes, in and out of tonality. Sometimes with dissonances that have no relationship to being in a key. And he sometimes builds his harmony on fourths instead of thirds. So when I say it's not a chord, what I mean is, as we've been learning from the Gershwin and Debussy, that if you build a chord in thirds (music) root, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth, you get, everything's in thirds.

Even if you change the position, it comes from thirds. But if you build a chord in fourths, (music) that's brand new. Now, Copland did not invent that, but that was new in his youth and it was American. It was- now, Scriabin did it to but, and yes, Copland knew Scriabin. But the American way of doing it was different. And it came from Carl Ruggles, Charles Seeger, Pete Seeger's dad, Ruth Crawford Seeger, his step mother.

And quite a few other people. But Copland himself contributed to this. And I'll get- you'll hear that in a moment. So we have mixolydian mode and then this ninth, which is a ninth at this point, unlike a Gershwin ninth, it's not just there as part of the harmony. It only comes from this inner voice moving the way it does.

So it's more about that voice moving. And then those chords don't have names. You can't, I mean, you can't write a cheat sheet or a lead sheet for a jazz pianist for that. You have to write the notes down or you won't get that. Now let's keep going and you'll see what that is. The phrase repeats. But he moves it up in the tune higher, like a good pop songwriter and higher again.

Now, above in little notes, if you read music, above the little notes are the fourths, what's called quartile harmony. That's the expression. It's not a quart of harmony, it's just harmony by fourths. These are all fourths. And that's where these chords come from. (music) All of them. Then this last phrase, B major chord. (music) Now, yes, that's the seventh and that's the ninth, but that's not how he's using it.

The notes, that A has to be right there. It can't be like- you can't do this (music) or this. (music) You can't change the position. This is a very Stravinsky-ian thing too. Very far apart. But also there's another mode, and actually, a Renaissance cadence being referred to here that John Dowland and other Renaissance composers used. That's because if you take a major chord and you lower the sixth and the seventh degree of the scale, (music) that's a very common sound at the end of a phrase, especially the end of a piece in the Renaissance like this, to go down that lowered scale.

In fact, that's a quote from John Dowland. (music) And that's exactly the notes. Did he study Renaissance music? Yes. In fact, Nadia Boulanger felt that a composer should know medieval music, Renaissance music, baroque music, everything, you know, all of it. And how did she teach it to them? The best possible way. All her students got together and read and sang madrigals.

And they sang- they were the first people in the 20th century to sing the madrigals of Gesualdo, who will be featured in a concert that I am hoping you'll come to next year. You have plenty of time because it's the 400th anniversary of the death of Gesualdo. But Gesualdo was someone that Nadia Boulanger understood and knew.

There was probably nobody else who looked at that music at that time. It wasn't published. So, his class of people, the students around Boulanger knew Renaissance harmony and medieval techniques and Stravinsky. And it all fit together because Stravinsky also was a composer who continually looked at history in order to go forward, just like Copland is doing here.

He's looking at ancient voice leading, ancient modes, and putting them together in a kind of fresh perspective with a simple American kind of phrasing. So you're getting the carefully chosen note and you're getting the long line and you're getting the long line of history, which is another long line. Now, you notice when you listen to Copland that he tends to either concentrate on rhythm or harmony.

He tends not to mix them that much. In other words, if the rhythms are wild, the harmonies are either simple, so simple that they hardly exist or they don't exist. They're not they're not there. It's octaves and things. And when he writes harmony, the rhythms are like this, extremely simple. And this, he didn't only do this, but this is what he did in Appalachian Spring and what he did in Fanfare for the Common Man and his big American works.

And I'll get back to that in a minute, but I'm going to explain using the tune Old MacDonald. Why am I using this? Because I want you to understand exactly what Copland probably would have done if he had been given the assignment to take Old MacDonald and make it sound like Copland. So follow this carefully, because this is how you do it.

You have to first cut it up because the idea is that the little phrases are the building blocks. So, Old MacDonald, let's review how it goes. (music) That's all you need to know. Okay? Now the first phrase (music) already we have to stop the rhythm. Now there are hundreds of ways to do this like Copland. One way is to start (music)

Now, the reason I did that is I've already chopped the phrase up, but I will make a longer line. And then the technique that he uses that I haven't mentioned yet and he does it all the time. And it's great for dancing. He'll take a short phrase that he'll make the same phrase start again, make it a little longer, make it a little longer, make it a little longer, and then he'll interrupt it with something foreign.

Then there'll be a silence and he'll start the whole phrase again. And now it's a long phrase and that foreign thing comes back. So in other words, he himself called it a creation. He he builds phrases by making them small and letting them accrue interest kind of. And then as they get bigger, they get interrupted and all of that becomes part of the process.

So that means Old MacDonald (music) could start like this. Now, what's that? But I take this note, I put it up an octave because if you're a cubist composer, the octave plane is a very important thing, so that you almost always take your tunes and realign the octaves. So by chopping up the phrase and by adding a phrase and by moving it up an octave, we get a lot of Copland-ism here. (music)

That, I can explain later. Now, this, (music) that he might have done this. (music) You see, that's the same notes but with octave displacements and a little bit of syncopation. Now, next thing he would typically do is speed up the process with rests. This (music) all that is is this. (music) Listen, and no notes are repeated more than that. Listen. (music) Got it? Now you speed it up and then E-I-E-I-O would go, would be like this.

(music) Alright? So, now you hear that phrase. Wait, what’s that note? Well, you can't stay in G. You've got to introduce a note. And typically it will be a jazz note like that. That's the blue note, and that will cause a modulation. But stay with the same technique. (music) What is this? (music) Same thing? E I E I, right?

So, that basically is- okay. That basically is the technique. But the reason that make is easier, of course it's not because it's any different from the Copland, but since there's a tune, you can follow that and you see how it gets dissected and reorganized, you get the thought process. So that's exactly the thought process. And it's very cubist.

It has to do with octave displacement and rhythmic displacement. Displacement was a favorite word of two twentieth century composers, Stravinsky and Copland. They displaced everything. And in fact, I used to, when I talk about Stravinsky, I mean, he was displaced himself, you know. He was a Russian in Paris. Then he was a Russian in California. In New York.

He was he never went home again, really, because of the revolution. So he was a displaced beat. Alright. Now. Beatnik, perhaps. Okay. We are not done with all that. Let me see what else I can get in here. Okay. In the time we've got, I have a lot of points I want to make, but it's important to know that Copland did, by all estimations, define an American sound.

And he not only did it with the music, but with the titles and the subjects. You know, you had Appalachian Spring, which was not his choice, but it was still very American with pioneers. And you had Rodeo sometimes called Rodeo, and you had Billy the Kid and Fanfare for the Common Man, which, however, could be looked at as communist and did get him into some trouble.

If you don't know that story, it's easy to find. Alight, I, quickly, will say something about this. Copland, the most American composer, if you ask anyone who is American music itself in embodied? Who is? It's Aaron Copland. But of course, Aaron Copland was kind of an intellectual, as he said, George Gershwin is not intellectual. So that meant he thought he was.

So that's the only quote I could find with the word intellectual in it by Aaron Copland. But anyway, Aaron Copland, as a teenager, became friends with Harold Clurman. Harold Clurman, the writer, actor, producer, director, Harold Clurman became a famous person in the theater with The Group Theater, The Group Theater, which spawned all sorts of famous people, including Marlon Brando and that whole crowd of people.

The Group Theater had leftist leanings, and they attracted composers and dancers and painters who had leftist leanings. The most powerful one was not an American. It was Hanns Eisler, who was a member of the Communist Party, and he was trying to influence people to become a member of the Communist Party. When was this? This was in the thirties.

Now, at the time and leading, you know, there was no big problem being a communist in America. It was allowed to be whatever you want it to be, and people could explore it. It wasn't a big problem yet. It started to be right away and so Charles Seeger, Pete Seeger’s father if you haven't learned that by now, Charles Seeger started along with a few other composers, an organization called the Composers Collective, and they were a left leaning organization here in New York.

Hanns Eisler was a member. Copland was not a member, but Copland was a sympathizer with them. And he went to all their meetings and he actually won one of their competitions to write a song for workers. They wrote together song books for workers, song books for the common people. Now, Fanfare for the Common Man has a little bit of that.

But what's wrong with the common man? That's the whole thing. There was this feeling that what's common and who are the workers was somehow a bad thing. But Copland thought, “That's what America is, isn't it? Isn't it the workers?” And the union thing was new, right? So the Composers Collective were all about being a Composers Union. And Aaron Copland started American Composers Alliance, which I used to be a member of.

It still exists now with computers, I'm not sure what they do, but all of these ideas and ASCAP, American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers, he helped turn that into something more interested in classical or modern music, as opposed to only pop songs. And he devoted himself to this. He worked with a well-known lyricist on a film in 1943, an anti Nazi film with a script by Lillian Hellman.

The film was called North Star. The lyricist was Ira Gershwin. So Copland actually wrote one song with Ira Gershwin. It's terrible. But why is it terrible? Well, because it was it was a film that was very propaganda-like. Now, the film tells the story of- I'll do this very briefly. The film tells the story of Ukrainians whose small little town idealized, I mean, by Hollywood in the most corny way imaginable, gets attacked by Nazis.

And the film goes from being a very corny, simple little trite looking film into something absolutely terrifying where horribly scary things happen and the acting rises to a very high level and the score the music does too, for which it won an award. But then later, of course, in the fifties, the movie was singled out by the McCarthy crowd as being anti-American and communist.

And so Copland and along with many other people, including Pete Seeger, of course, all of these people were in danger and Copland was blacklisted. One of the best stories- and then I'll get back to the music about how ironic this all is, is Copland's Lincoln Portrait. one of the strongest Americana works. By Americana, you know, that's a word that Copland popularized himself. A work about America that sounds like America and it speaks about America.

And it's Lincoln's text. For Eisenhower's inauguration, they decided that they were going to play the Lincoln Portrait. But a Republican senator named Busby, said, “But that's communist music. This guy is dangerous left wing person.” And he convinced, actually, he was a congressman. He convinced Congress not to do the piece. So Copland's management, which was really the American Composers Alliance, or his union, wrote a note saying, “Aaron Copland is the most famous American composer.

This is the text of Abraham Lincoln. This piece has been performed around the world and translated into other languages, and it has made people understand what America is about. How can you not do this?” And they said, “Because he's a dangerous left wing fanatic.” And they didn't do it. Many years later, Richard Nixon went to a concert at which Aaron Copland was present, where they did the Lincoln Portrait, and he went up to Aaron Copland and said, “That's a very powerful piece.

I wish I had known it before. I would have used it for something.” And Aaron Copland's, he didn't say anything, but his, the woman who was standing with him, who represented him at that time said, “Well, you would have known it, but there was a little incident that prevented it.” And apparently Nixon knew what that was and turned around and walked away.

The so-called Busby incident. Okay. Now, there's a lot of music we can do, but I think what I want to show for you is a little tiny bit of the Ira Gershwin collaboration with Aaron Copland. A little video.

Two weeks in Utah is going to be a long, long time.

If I eat too much jam, Mother, look how young I am. Mother Dear, please recall that at one time you were small. If I'm hard on my clothes and I do not wipe my nose, parents dear, please recall that at one time you were small. (vocalization) We’re the younger generation. The future of the nation.

Okay, that’s about enough of that. Now, if you're wondering how he won an award for this, it's not for that song. The music, the serious part of the music at the beginning and at the end is actually very Copland and very beautiful. Except, and here's the greatest irony, and you can find this on YouTube. You can’t find it anywhere else that I know.

Aaron Copland has now developed his American style based on Stravinsky. And for this movie he used his style, but he used Russian folk songs and it didn't sound like Stravinsky. Here, maybe you better hear a little bit of that. It's very strange how far he he took that. This is from the beginning of the movie where you can hear Copland’s...

The tune is a Russian folk song, but it still sounds American for some reason. (music) It's a Russian folk song. Alright. Well, there's enough of that. Now... We can- yes, thanks. I have found for the last, since this is near the end of the last lecture, I found a couple of rare documents that I need to share with you.

It turns out that Copland also got rhythm in a different way from Gershwin. And now that you know the techniques of how to write Copland's rhythms and how the harmonies are divided up in a certain way, here is what seems to be Aaron Copland's version of I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin. (music) Yeah, I don't know if you could follow. The whole tune is there just I want to make sure that I use this for the right reason.

Like I've got rhythm. You see, it's always there. And then here is the answer. (music) And this is also I Got Rhythm. And then. And then I Got Rhythm. And the reason, and this is every phrase. And here too. And. So, the idea is that you stick to your material like Beethoven would. You stick to one idea and you use it over and over but you get the most out of it, but not the way Beethoven did.

Not 18th century music. Not even 19th century music. Not the way Scriabin did it, or Debussy, but by cubist manipulation, which of course Copland never called it that, but it was called that by many people when looking at Stravinsky and I'm sure he would have agreed. Now, it also turns out that Stravinsky influenced Gershwin because apparently the first sketch of I Got Rhythm is very different from how it ended up. (music)

Now. Okay, I hope you're having fun. We're about to go over, so I have one more. And this this is my favorite. But First, you have to hear a little bit of real Stravinsky. This is from L’histoire du Soldat. (music) Think about the rhythm. Now, another moment of Stravinsky from Dumbarton Oaks, which, think about Appalachian Spring. (music)

Hold on. Listen to this carefully because then I’ll play you something from Appalachian Spring. Now, from Appalachian Spring. (music) That's really close stuff, you know, just so you can hear it. So the last thing, it's important to stress, is that it may be that Copland learned most of his technique from Stravinsky, but it ain't necessarily so. (music) That’s it. Thank you very much.

We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures, as well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there, check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. See you next time.