Aaron Copland (/ /; November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor of his own and other American music. Instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, in his later years he was often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers" and is best known for the works he wrote in the 1930s and 1940s in a deliberately accessible style often referred to as "populist" and which the composer labeled his "vernacular" style.
Works in this vein include the ballets Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid and Rodeo, his Fanfare for the Common Man and Third Symphony. The open, slowly changing harmonies of many of his works are typical of what many people consider to be the sound of American music, evoking the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit. In addition to his ballets and orchestral works, he produced music in many other genres including chamber music, vocal works, opera and film scores.
After some initial studies with composer Rubin Goldmark, Copland traveled to Paris, where he first studied with Isidor Philipp and Paul Vidal, then with noted pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. He studied three years with Boulanger, whose eclectic approach to music inspired his own broad taste. Determined upon his return to the U.S. to make his way as a full-time composer, Copland gave lecture-recitals, wrote works on commission and did some teaching and writing. He found composing orchestral music in the modernist style he had adapted abroad a financially contradictory approach, particularly in light of the Great Depression. He shifted in the mid-1930s to a more accessible musical style which mirrored the German idea of Gebrauchsmusik ("music for use"), music that could serve utilitarian and artistic purposes. During the Depression years, he traveled extensively to Europe, Africa, and Mexico, formed an important friendship with Mexican composer Carlos Chávez and began composing his signature works.
During the late 1940s, Copland felt a need to compose works of greater emotional substance than his utilitarian scores of the late 1930s and early 1940s. He was aware that Stravinsky, as well as many fellow composers, had begun to study Arnold Schoenberg's use of twelve-tone (serial) techniques. In his style, Copland began to make use of twelve-tone rows in several compositions. He incorporated serial techniques in some of his later works[clarification needed], including his Piano Quartet (1950), Piano Fantasy (1957), Connotations for orchestra (1961) and Inscape for orchestra (1967). From the 1960s onward, Copland's activities turned more from composing to conducting. He became a frequent guest conductor of orchestras in the U.S. and the UK and made a series of recordings of his music, primarily for Columbia Records.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Composer
- 3 Film composer
- 4 Critic, writer, and teacher
- 5 Conductor
- 6 Awards
- 7 Notable students
- 8 Selected works
- 9 Film
- 10 Written works
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn into a Conservative Jewish family of Lithuanian origins, the last of five children, on November 14, 1900. While emigrating from Russia to the United States, Copland's father, Harris Morris Copland, Anglicized his surname "Kaplan" to "Copland" while living and working in Scotland for two to three years to pay for the boat fare to the US. Copland was however unaware until late in his life that the family name had been Kaplan, and his parents never told him this. Throughout his childhood, Copland and his family lived above his parents' Brooklyn shop, H.M. Copland's, at 628 Washington Avenue (which Aaron would later describe as "a kind of neighborhood Macy's"), on the corner of Dean Street and Washington Avenue, and most of the children helped out in the store. His father was a staunch Democrat. The family members were active in Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes, where Aaron celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Not especially athletic, the sensitive young man became an avid reader and often read Horatio Alger stories on his front steps.
Copland's father had no musical interest at all, but his mother, Sarah Mittenthal Copland, sang and played the piano, and arranged for music lessons for her children. Of his siblings, oldest brother Ralph was the most advanced musically, proficient on the violin, while his sister Laurine had the strongest connection with Aaron, giving him his first piano lessons, promoting his musical education, and supporting him in his musical career. She attended the Metropolitan Opera School and was a frequent opera goer. She often brought home libretti for Aaron to study. Copland attended Boys' High School and in the summer went to various camps. Most of his early exposure to music was at Jewish weddings and ceremonies, and occasional family musicales.
At the age of eleven, Copland devised an opera scenario he called Zenatello, which included seven bars of music, his first notated melody. From 1913 to 1917 he took music lessons with Leopold Wolfsohn, who taught him the standard classical fare. Copland's first public music performance was at a Wanamaker's recital.
By the age of 15, after attending a concert by composer-pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Copland decided to become a composer. After attempts to further his music study from a correspondence course, Copland took formal lessons in harmony, theory, and composition from Rubin Goldmark, a noted teacher and composer of American music (who had given George Gershwin three lessons). Goldmark gave the young Copland a solid foundation, especially in the Germanic tradition, as he stated later: "This was a stroke of luck for me. I was spared the floundering that so many musicians have suffered through incompetent teaching." But Copland also commented that the maestro had "little sympathy for the advanced musical idioms of the day" and his "approved" composers ended with Richard Strauss.
Copland's graduation piece from his studies with Goldmark was a three-movement piano sonata in a Romantic style. But he had also composed more original and daring pieces which he did not share with his teacher. In addition to regularly attending the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Symphony, where he heard the standard classical repertory, Copland continued his musical development through an expanding circle of musical friends. After graduating from high school, Copland played in dance bands. Continuing his musical education, he received further piano lessons from Victor Wittgenstein, who found his student to be "quiet, shy, well-mannered, and gracious in accepting criticism." Copland's fascination with the Russian Revolution and its promise for freeing the lower classes drew a rebuke from his father and uncles. In spite of that, in his early adult life Copland would develop friendships with people with socialist and communist leanings.
Studying in Paris
From 1917 to 1921, Copland composed juvenile works of short piano pieces and art songs. Copland's passion for the latest European music, plus glowing letters from his friend Aaron Schaffer, inspired him to go to Paris for further study. His father wanted him to go to college, but his mother's vote in the family conference allowed him to give Paris a try. On arriving in France, he studied at the Fontainebleau School of Music with noted pianist and pedagogue Isidor Philipp and with Paul Vidal. But finding Vidal too much like Goldmark, Copland switched to famed teacher Nadia Boulanger, then aged thirty-four. He had initial reservations: "No one to my knowledge had ever before thought of studying with a woman." She interviewed him, and recalled later: "One could tell his talent immediately."
Boulanger had as many as forty students at once and employed a formal regimen that Copland had to follow, too. Copland found her incisive mind much to his liking and stated: "This intellectual Amazon is not only professor at the Conservatoire, is not only familiar with all music from Bach to Stravinsky, but is prepared for anything worse in the way of dissonance. But make no mistake ... A more charming womanly woman never lived." Though he planned on only one year abroad, he studied with her for three years, finding her eclectic approach inspired his own broad musical taste.
Adding to the heady cultural atmosphere of the early 1920s in Paris was the presence of expatriate American writers Paul Bowles, Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound, as well as artists like Picasso, Chagall, and Modigliani. Also influential on the new music were the French intellectuals Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, Sartre, and André Gide, the latter cited by Copland as being his personal favorite and most read. Travels to Italy, Austria, and Germany rounded out Copland's musical education. During his stay in Paris, Copland began writing musical critiques, the first on Gabriel Fauré, which helped spread his fame and stature in the music community. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and self-destruction like many of the expatriate members of the Lost Generation, Copland returned to America optimistic and enthusiastic about the future.
1925 to 1935
On his return to the U.S., Copland determined to make his way as a full-time composer. He rented a studio apartment on New York City's Upper West Side in the Empire Hotel, close to Carnegie Hall and other musical venues and publishers. He remained in that area for the next thirty years, later moving to Westchester County, New York. Copland lived frugally and survived financially with help from two $2,500 Guggenheim Fellowships in 1925 and 1926. Lecture-recitals, awards, appointments, and small commissions, plus some teaching, writing, and personal loans kept him afloat in the subsequent years through World War II. Also important, especially during the Depression, were wealthy patrons who underwrote performances, helped pay for publication of works and promoted musical events and composers.
Soon after his return, Copland was exposed to the artistic circle of photographer Alfred Stieglitz. While Copland did not care for Steiglitz's domineering attitude, he admired his work and took to heart Steiglitz's conviction that American artists should reflect "the ideas of American Democracy." This deal influenced not just the composer but also a generation of artists and photographers, including Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Walker Evans. Evans' photographs inspired portions of Copland's opera The Tender Land.
In his quest to take up the slogan of the Stieglitz group, "Affirm America," Copland found only the music of Carl Ruggles and Charles Ives upon which to draw. Without what Copland called a "usable past," he looked toward jazz and popular music, something he had already started to do while in Europe. In the 1920s, George Gershwin, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong in the forefront American popular music and jazz. By the end of the decade, Copland felt his music was going in a more abstract, less jazz-oriented direction. However, as large swing bands such as those by Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller became popular in the 1930s, Copland took a renewed interest in the genre.
Copland also joined up with his younger contemporaries and formed a group termed the "commando unit," which included Roger Sessions, Roy Harris, Virgil Thomson, and Walter Piston. They collaborated in joint concerts showcasing their work to new audiences. Copland's relationship with the "commando unit" was one of both support and rivalry, and he played a key role in keeping them together. The five young American composers helped promote each other and their works but also had testy exchanges, inflamed by the assertion of the press that Copland was the "truly American" composer. Going beyond the five, Copland was generous with his time with nearly every American young composer he met during his life, later earning the title the "Dean of American Music."
Copland's compositions in the early 1920s reflected the modernist attitude that prevailed among intellectuals. These individuals thought of themselves as a small vanguard for the masses, who would only come to appreciate their efforts over time. In this view, music and the other arts need be accessible to only a select cadre of the enlightened. Toward this end, Copland formed the Young Composer's Group, modeled after France's "Six", gathering together promising young composers, acting as their guiding spirit. However, mounting troubles with the Symphonic Ode (1929) and Short Symphony (1933) caused him to rethink the paradigm of composing orchestral music for a select group, as it was a financially contradictory approach, particularly in the Depression. In many ways, this shift mirrored the German idea of Gebrauchsmusik ("music for use"), as composers sought to create music that could serve a utilitarian as well as artistic purpose. This approach encompassed two trends: first, music that students could easily learn, and second, music which would have wider appeal, such as incidental music for plays, movies, radio, etc. Copland undertook both goals, starting in the mid-1930s. He was also aware of a shift in artistic tastes, influenced by left-leaning politics, away from modernism and toward Social Realism.
1935 to 1950
Sample of the opening movement in Copland's ballet
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Perhaps motivated by the plight of children during the Depression, around 1935 Copland began to compose musical pieces for young audiences, in accordance with the first goal of American Gebrauchsmusik. These works included piano pieces (The Young Pioneers) and an opera (The Second Hurricane). During the Depression years, Copland traveled extensively to Europe, Africa, and Mexico. He formed an important friendship with Mexican composer Carlos Chávez and would return often to Mexico for working vacations conducting engagements. During his initial visit to Mexico, Copland began composing the first of his signature works, El Salón México, which he completed in 1936. In it and The Second Hurricane, Copland began "experimenting," as he phrased it, with a simpler, more accessible style. This and other incidental commissions fulfilled the second goal of American Gebrauchsmusik, creating music of wide appeal.
During this time, he composed (for radio broadcast) "Prairie Journal," one of his first pieces to convey the landscape of the American West. Branching out into theater, Copland provided musical advice and inspiration to The Group Theater—Stella Adler's and Lee Strasberg's "method" acting school. The Group Theater followed Copland's musical agenda and focused on plays that illuminated the American experience. Copland also met several major American playwrights, including Thornton Wilder, William Inge, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee, and considered projects with all of them. During the 1930s, Copland wrote incidental music for several plays, including Irwin Shaw's Quiet City (1939), considered one of his most personal and poignant scores.
Demonstrating his broad range, Copland in the 1930s began composing music for ballet. His second, Billy the Kid (1939), became, along with El Salón México, his first widespread public success. In an interview with Vivian Perlis, Eugene Loring said of the ballet, "In our western states, there were still a few old-timers who remembered Billy. One came backstage in San Francisco to tell us that it was all fine, except that Billy really shot left-handed!" Copland's ballet music established him as an authentic composer of American music much as Stravinsky's ballet scores connected the composer with Russian music. Copland's timing was excellent; he helped fill a vacuum for the American choreographers who needed suitable music to score their own nationalistic dance repertory. In 1939, Copland completed his first two Hollywood film scores, for Of Mice and Men and Our Town, and composed the radio score "John Henry", based on the folk ballad.
Copland started to publish some of his lectures in the 1930s, "What to Listen for in Music" being one of the most notable of his writings. He also took a leading role in the American Composers Alliance, whose mission was "to regularize and collect all fees pertaining to performance of their copyrighted music" and "to stimulate interest in the performance of American music." Copland eventually moved over to rival ASCAP. Through royalties and with his great success from 1940 on, Copland amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune by the time of his death.
The 1940s was arguably Copland's most productive, and some of his works from this period would firmly establish his worldwide fame. His two ballet scores for Rodeo (1942) and Appalachian Spring (1944) were huge successes. His pieces Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man became patriotic standards (See Popular works, below). Also important was the Third Symphony. Composed in a two-year period from 1944 to 1946, it became Copland's best-known symphony. The Clarinet Concerto (1948), scored for solo clarinet, strings, harp, and piano, was a commission piece for bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman and a complement to Copland's earlier jazz-influenced work, the Piano Concerto (1926). His "Four Piano Blues" is an introspective composition with a jazz influence. Copland finished the 1940s with two film scores, one for William Wyler's 1949 film The Heiress and one for the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel The Red Pony.
In 1949, Copland returned to Europe, where he found French composer Pierre Boulez dominating the group of post-war avant-garde composers there. He also met with proponents of twelve-tone technique, based on the works of Arnold Schoenberg, and found himself interested in adapting serial methods to his own musical voice.
1950s and 1960s
In 1950, Copland received a U.S.-Italy Fulbright Commission scholarship to study in Rome, which he did the following year. Around this time, he also composed his Piano Quartet, adopting Schoenberg's twelve-tone method of composition, and Old American Songs (1950), the first set of which was premiered by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten, the second by William Warfield.
Because of the political climate of that era, A Lincoln Portrait was withdrawn from the 1953 inaugural concert for President Eisenhower. That same year, Copland was called before Congress, where he testified that he was never a communist.
Despite the difficulties that his suspected Communist sympathies posed, Copland nonetheless traveled extensively during the 1950s and early 1960s, observing the avant-garde styles of Europe while experiencing the new school of Soviet music. In addition, he was rather taken with the work of Toru Takemitsu while in Japan and began a correspondence with him that would last over the next decade. Copland wrote of the Japanese composer: "He has the 'pure gold' touch, he chooses his notes carefully and meaningfully." Copland also gained exposure to the latest musical trends in Poland and Scandinavia. In observing these new musical forms, Copland revised his text "The New Music" with comments on the styles that he encountered. In particular, while Copland explained the importance of the work of John Cage and others (in his chapter titled "The Music of Chance"), he found that these radical trends in music which appealed to those "who enjoy teetering on the edge of chaos" were less likely to gain the appreciation of a wider audience "who envisage art as a bulwark against the irrationality of man's nature." As he summarized: "I've spent most of my life trying to get the right note in the right place. Just throwing it open to chance seems to go against my natural instincts."
In 1954, Copland received a commission from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to create music for the opera The Tender Land, based on James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Copland had been wary of writing an opera, being especially aware of the pitfalls of that form, including weak libretti and demanding production values. Nevertheless, Copland decided to try his hand at "la forme fatale," especially as the 1950s were boom times for American playwrights, with Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets and Thornton Wilder doing some of their best work. Originally two acts, The Tender Land was later expanded to three. As Copland feared, critics found the libretto to be the opera's weakness, and he later stated: "I admit that if I have one regret it is that I never did write a 'grand opera'." In spite of its flaws, the opera became one of the few American operas to enter the standard repertory.
Copland exerted a major influence on the compositional style of an entire generation of American composers, including his friend and protégé Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein was considered the finest conductor of Copland's works and cites Copland's "aesthetic, simplicity with originality" as being his strongest and most influential traits.
For the occasion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Centennial, Copland composed Ceremonial Fanfare For Brass Ensemble to accompany the exhibition "Masterpieces Of Fifty Centuries." Leonard Bernstein, Walter Piston, William Schuman, and Virgil Thomson also composed pieces for the Museum's Centennial exhibitions.
From the 1960s onward, Copland's activities turned more from composing to conducting. Though not enamored with the prospect, he found himself without new ideas for composition, saying: "It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet." Copland was a frequent guest conductor of orchestras in the U.S. and the UK. He made a series of recordings of his music, primarily for Columbia Records. In 1960, RCA Victor released Copland's recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of the orchestral suites from Appalachian Spring and The Tender Land; these recordings were later reissued on CD, as were most of Copland's Columbia recordings (by Sony).
From 1960 to his death, he resided at Cortlandt Manor, New York. His home, known as Rock Hill, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. It was further designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008. Copland's health deteriorated through the 1980s, and he died of Alzheimer's disease and respiratory failure on December 2, 1990, in North Tarrytown, New York (now Sleepy Hollow). Much of his large estate was bequeathed to the creation of the Aaron Copland Fund for Composers, which bestows over $600,000 per year to performing groups.
Copland never enrolled as a member of any political party. However, he did espouse a general progressive view and had strong ties with numerous colleagues and friends in the Popular Front, including Odets. Copland supported the Communist Party USA ticket during the 1936 presidential election, at the height of his involvement with The Group Theater, and remained a committed opponent of militarism and the Cold War, which he regarded as having been instigated by the United States. He condemned it as "almost worse for art than the real thing". Throw the artist "into a mood of suspicion, ill-will, and dread that typifies the cold war attitude and he'll create nothing". In keeping with these attitudes, Copland was a strong supporter of the Presidential candidacy of Henry A. Wallace on the Progressive Party ticket. As a result, he was investigated by the FBI during the Red scare of the 1950s and found himself blacklisted.
Copland was included on an FBI list of 151 artists thought to have Communist associations. Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn questioned Copland about his lecturing abroad and his affiliations with various organizations and events, neglecting completely Copland's works which made a virtue of American values. Outraged by the accusations, many members of the musical community held up Copland's music as a banner of his patriotism. The investigations ceased in 1955 and were closed in 1975. Though taxing of his time, energy, and emotional state, the McCarthy probes did not seriously affect Copland's career and international artistic reputation. In any case, beginning in 1950, Copland, who had been appalled at Stalin's persecution of Shostakovich and other artists, began resigning from participation in leftist groups. He decried the lack of artistic freedom in the Soviet Union, and in his 1954 Norton lecture he asserted that loss of freedom under Soviet Communism deprived artists of "the immemorial right of the artist to be wrong." He began to vote Democratic, first for Stevenson and then for Kennedy.
Copland was an agnostic. However, Copland had various encounters with organized religious thought, which influenced some of his early compositions. Copland was once close with the Zionist movement during the Popular Front movement, when it was endorsed by the left. In relation to his compositions one of his earliest musical interests was with klezmer music. The music of his childhood synagogue would be one of the early influences of his fresh musical aesthetic.
Copland is documented as gay in author Howard Pollack's biography, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Like many of his contemporaries he guarded his privacy, especially in regard to his homosexuality, providing very few written details about his private life. However, he was one of the few composers of his stature to live openly and travel with his intimates, most of whom were talented, much younger men. Among Copland's love affairs, most of which lasted for only a few years yet became enduring friendships, were ones with photographer Victor Kraft, artist Alvin Ross, pianist Paul Moor, dancer Erik Johns, composer John Brodbin Kennedy, and painter Prentiss Taylor.
Victor Kraft would prove to be the one constant romantic relationship in Copland's life. Originally a student of music under Copland, Kraft gave up music in pursuit of a career in photography on Copland's urging. Kraft would leave and re-enter Copland's life, often bringing much stress with him: their relationship would fluctuate from contentedness to erratically confrontational on Kraft's part. Kraft fathered a child to whom Copland later provided financial security, through a bequest from his estate.
While Copland's earliest musical inclinations as a teenager ran toward Chopin, Debussy, Verdi and the Russian composers, Copland's teacher and mentor Nadia Boulanger became his most important influence. Copland especially admired Boulanger's total grasp of all classical music, and he was encouraged to experiment and develop a "clarity of conception and elegance in proportion." Following her model, he studied all periods of classical music and all forms—from madrigals to symphonies. This breadth of vision led Copland to compose music for numerous settings—orchestra, opera, solo piano, small ensemble, art song, ballet, theater and film. Boulanger particularly emphasized "la grande ligne" (the long line), "a sense of forward motion ... the feeling for inevitability, for the creating of an entire piece that could be thought of as a functioning entity."
During his studies with Boulanger in Paris, Copland was excited to be so close to the new post-Impressionistic French music of Ravel, Roussel, and Satie, as well as Les six, a group that included Milhaud, Poulenc, and Honegger. Webern, Berg, and Bartók also impressed him. Copland was "insatiable" in seeking out the newest European music, whether in concerts, score reading or heated debate. These "moderns" were discarding the old laws of composition and experimenting with new forms, harmonies and rhythms, and including the use of jazz and quarter-tone music. Milhaud was Copland's inspiration for some of his earlier "jazzy" works. He was also exposed to Schoenberg and admired his earlier atonal pieces, thinking Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Above all others, Copland named Igor Stravinsky as his "hero" and his favorite 20th-century composer. Copland especially admired Stravinsky's "jagged and uncouth rhythmic effects," "bold use of dissonance," and "hard, dry, crackling sonority."
Another inspiration for much of Copland's music was jazz. Although familiar with jazz back in America—having listened to it and also played it in bands—he fully realized its potential while traveling in Austria: "The impression of jazz one receives in a foreign country is totally unlike the impression of such music heard in one's own country ... when I heard jazz played in Vienna, it was like hearing it for the first time." He also found that the distance from his native country helped him see the United States more clearly. Beginning in 1923, he employed "jazzy elements" in his classical music, but by the late 1930s, he moved on to Latin and American folk tunes in his more successful pieces.
Although his early focus of jazz gave way to other influences, Copland continued to make use of jazz in more subtle ways in later works. But it was the synthesizing of all his influences and inclinations which create the "Americanism" of his music. Copland pointed out in summarizing the American character of his music, "the optimistic tone", "his love of rather large canvases", "a certain directness in expression of sentiment", and "a certain songfulness". As he advanced in his career (by 1941), he said of himself and advised other composers:
I no longer feel the need of seeking out conscious Americanisms [folksongs and folk rhythms]. Because we live here and work here, we can be certain that when our music is mature it will also be American in quality.
In contradiction to this statement, however, he continued to look for and employ folk material for several more years.
Copland's earliest compositions before leaving for Paris were short works for piano and some art songs, inspired mostly by Liszt and Debussy. He experimented with ambiguous beginnings and endings, rapid key changes, and the frequent use of tritones. His first published work was The Cat and the Mouse (1920), a piano solo piece based on a fable by Jean de la Fontaine. In Three Moods (1921), Copland's final movement is entitled "Jazzy", which he noted "is based on two jazz melodies and ought to make the old professors sit up and take notice".
One of Copland's first significant works upon returning from his studies in Paris was the necromantic ballet Grohg. This ballet, suggested to Copland by the film Nosferatu, a free adaptation of the Dracula tale, provided the source material for his later Dance Symphony. Originally intended as an orchestral exercise while he was studying in Paris, Copland completed it as a full orchestral score after returning to New York in 1925. It too had "jazz elements" as did many of Copland's works in the 1920s.
Copland's Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1924) brought him into contact with Serge Koussevitzky, a conductor known as a champion of "new music", and another figure who would prove to be influential in Copland's life, perhaps the second most important after Boulanger. Koussevitzky performed twelve Copland works during his tenure as conductor of the Boston Symphony. Copland's relationship with Koussevitzky was apparently unique, as his interpretations of Copland's works reflected the particular admiration that the latter had for the young composer. Copland's Music for the Theatre (1925) and the Piano Concerto (1926) were both composed for Koussevitzky.
Visits to Europe in 1926 and 1927 brought him into contact with the most recent developments there, including Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra, which greatly impressed him. In August 1927, while staying in Königstein, Copland wrote Poet's Song, a setting of a text by E. E. Cummings and his first composition using Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique. This was followed by the Symphonic Ode (1929) and the Piano Variations (1930), both of which rely on the exhaustive development of a single short motive. This procedure, which provided Copland with more formal flexibility and a greater emotional range than in his earlier music, is similar to Schoenberg's idea of "continuous variation" and, according to Copland's own admission, was influenced by the twelve-tone method, though neither work actually uses a twelve-tone row.
Other major works of his first period include the Piano Variations (1930), and the Short Symphony (1933). However, this jazz-inspired period was relatively brief, as his style evolved toward the goal of writing more accessible works using folk sources.
Copland wrote El Salón México between 1932 and 1936, which met with a popular acclaim that contrasted the relative obscurity of most of his previous works. Inspiration for this work came from Copland's vivid recollection of visiting the "Salon Mexico" dancehall where he witnessed a more intimate view of Mexico's nightlife. Copland derived his melodic material for this piece freely from two collections of Mexican folk tunes, changing pitches and varying rhythms. The use of a folk tune with variations set in a symphonic context started a pattern he repeated in many of his most successful works right on through the 1940s.
El Salón prepared Copland to write the ballet score Billy the Kid , which became, in Pollack's words, an "archetypical depiction of the legendary American West." Based on a Walter Noble Burns novel, with choreography by Eugene Loring, Billy was among the first to display an American music and dance vocabulary. Copland used six cowboy folk songs to provide period atmosphere and employed polyrhythm and polyharmony when not quoting these tunes literally to maintain the work's overall tone. The ballet premiered in New York in 1939, with Copland recalling "I cannot remember another work of mine that was so unanimously received."
In 1942, Copland produced two occasional pieces that, to his great surprise, became among his best-known works. Fanfare for the Common Man, scored for brass and percussion, was written at the request of the conductor Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It would later be used to open many Democratic National Conventions, and to add dignity to a wide range of other events. The composer would later use this fanfare as the main theme of the fourth movement of Copland's Third Symphony. Copland's A Lincoln Portrait resulted from a commission from conductor André Kostelanetz and led to a further strengthening of his association with American patriotic music. The work is famous for the spoken recitation of Lincoln's words, though the idea had been previously employed by John Alden Carpenter's "Song of Faith" based on George Washington's quotations. "Lincoln Portrait" is often performed at national holiday celebrations.
Also in 1942 Copland composed the ballet Rodeo, a tale of a ranch wedding, which contains many recognizable folk tunes, well-blended with Copland's original music. Notable in the final movement, is the striking "Hoedown". This was a recreation of Appalachian fiddler W. H. Stepp's version of the square-dance tune "Bonypart" ("Bonaparte's Retreat"), which had been transcribed for piano by Ruth Crawford Seeger and published in Alan Lomax and Seeger's book, Our Singing Country (1941). For the "Hoedown" in Rodeo Copland borrowed note for note from Seeger's piano transcription of Stepp's tune. This fragment (lifted from Ruth Crawford Seeger) is now one of the best-known compositions by any American composer, having been used numerous times in movies and on television, including commercials. The ballet, originally titled "The Courting at Burnt Ranch", was choreographed by Agnes de Mille, niece of film giant Cecil B. DeMille. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera on October 16, 1942, with de Mille dancing the principal "cowgirl" role and the performance received a standing ovation. A reduced score is still popular as an orchestral piece, especially at "Pops" concerts.
In 1944, Copland was commissioned by choreographer Martha Graham to write "music for an American ballet." The result, Appalachian Spring, became the work with which the composer would become most closely linked. Originally written for an ensemble of thirteen instruments, per the commission's demands, Copland ultimately arranged the score as an orchestral suite. Copland borrowed the flavor of Shaker songs and dances for this work, and directly used the dance song Simple Gifts. Graham took the score and created a ballet she called Appalachian Spring (from a poem by Hart Crane which had no connection with Shakers). It was an instant success, and the music later acquired the same name.
Copland composed three numbered symphonies, but applied the word "symphony" to more than just symphonies of typical structure. He re-orchestrated his early three-movement Organ Symphony omitting the organ, calling the result his First Symphony. His fifteen-minute Short Symphony was the Second Symphony, though it also exists as the Sextet. His Dance Symphony was hurriedly extracted from the earlier unproduced ballet Grohg to meet an RCA Records commission deadline.
The Third Symphony is in the more traditional format (four movements; second movement, scherzo; third movement, adagio) and is his most famous symphony. At forty minutes, it is his longest orchestral composition. He composed it with Koussevitzky's unique character in mind, "I knew exactly the kind of music he enjoyed conducting and the sentiments he brought with it, and I knew the sound of his orchestra, so I had every reason to do my darnedest to write a symphony in the grand manner." Among the details of interest in the work is Copland's use of palindromic structure—whole movements as well as melodies end as they began. Completing the work after World War II was won by the Allies, he stated that the symphony was "intended to reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time." The work received generally strong acclaim. Koussevitzky "declared it simply the greatest American symphony ever written." Arthur Berger stated that it achieved "a kind of panorama of all the musical resources that have through the years formed his musical language," while Leonard Bernstein "deemed it the epitome of a decades-long search by many composers for a distinctly American music." It is the best known, most performed, and most recorded American symphony of the 20th Century.
Copland's work in the late 1940s and 1950s included use of Schönberg's twelve-tone system, a development that he had recognized but not fully embraced. He had also believed the atonality of serialized music to run counter to his desire to reach a wide audience. Copland therefore approached dodecaphony with some initial skepticism. While in Europe in 1949, he heard a number of serial works but did not admire much of it because "so often it seemed that individuality was sacrificed to the method." The music of French composer Pierre Boulez showed Copland that the technique could be separated from the "old Wagnerian" aesthetic with which he had associated it previously. Subsequent exposure to the late music of Austrian composer Anton Webern and twelve-tone pieces by Swiss composer Frank Martin and Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola strengthened this opinion.
Eventually, Copland came to the conclusion that composing along serial lines was "like looking at a picture from a different point of view." He explained in 1957, "As I see it, twelve-tonism is nothing more than an angle of vision. Like fugal treatment, it is a stimulus that enlivens musical thinking, especially when applied to a series of tones that lend themselves to that treatment. It is a method, not a style; and therefore it solves no problems of musical expressivity." He began using dodecaphonism "with the hope that it would freshen and enrich my [compositional] technique."
Copland began his first serial work, the "Piano Fantasy," in 1951 to fulfill a commission from the young virtuoso pianist William Kapell. The piece became one of his most challenging works, over which he labored until 1957. During the work's development, in 1953, Kapell died in an aircraft crash. Critics lauded the "Fantasy" when it was finally premiered, calling the piece "an outstanding addition to his own oeuvre and to contemporary piano literature" and "a tremendous achievement". Jay Rosenfield stated, "This is a new Copland to us, an artist advancing with strength and not building on the past alone."
Serialism also allowed Copland a synthesis of serial and non-serial practices, a dichotomy that according to musicologist Joseph Straus had long concerned Copland and had been considered irreconcilable. Copland wrote that, to him, serialism pointed in two opposite directions, one "toward the extreme of total organization with electronic applications" and the other "a gradual absorption into what had become a very freely interpreted tonalism [italics Copland]." The path he said he chose was the latter one, which he said, when he described his Piano Fantasy, allowed him to incorporate "elements able to be associated with the twelve-tone method and also with music tonally conceived."
Even after Copland started using 12-tone techniques, he did not stick to them exclusively but went back and forth between tonal and non-tonal compositions. Other late works include: "Dance Panels" (1959, ballet music), "Something Wild" (1961, his last film score, much of which would be later incorporated into his "Music for a Great City"), "Connotations" (1962, for the new Lincoln Center Philharmonic hall), "Emblems" (1964, for wind band), "Night Thoughts" (1972, for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition), and "Proclamation'" (1982, his last work, started in 1973).
By the 1930s, Hollywood began to beckon "serious" composers with promises of better films and higher pay. The reality, however, was that few found good projects. Copland sought to enter that arena, as both a challenge for his abilities as a composer and an opportunity to expand his reputation and audience for his more serious works. Unlike the total attention he would hope to get from a concert-goer, Copland wrote that film music had to achieve a balance. It should be "secondary in importance to the story being told on the screen" while notably adding to the dramatic and emotional content of the film—but without diverting the viewer's attention from the action.
Upon arriving in Hollywood in 1937, he had high hopes: "It is just a matter of finding a feature film that needs my kind of music." What he found, however, was the ongoing tendency of studios to edit and cut movie scores, which often subverted a composer's intentions. No projects seemed suitable at first. But his patience paid off two years later when Copland found a kindred spirit in director Lewis Milestone, who allowed Copland to supervise his own orchestration and who refrained from interfering with his work. Copland composed three of his five film scores for Milestone.
This collaboration resulted in the notable film Of Mice and Men (1939), from the novel by John Steinbeck, that earned Copland his first nomination for an Academy Award ( he actually received two nominations, one for "best score" and another for "original score"). He considered himself lucky with his first film score: "Here was an American theme, by a great American writer, demanding appropriate music." Having accepted small sums for other projects in the past, especially to help out cash-strapped productions involving friends, this time Copland would capitalize on his efforts: "I thought if I was to sell myself to the movies, I ought to sell myself good." From then on, he became one of Hollywood's highest paid film composers, earning as much as $15,000 per film.
In a departure from other film scores of the time, Copland's work largely reflected his own style, instead of the usual borrowing from the late-Romantic period. Many silent and early talking films used classical music themes directly, both in the credit sequences and during the action. But with Copland, the film score's purpose was more comprehensive and subtle, setting the atmosphere of time and place, illustrating the thoughts of the actors, providing continuity and filler, and shaping the emotion and drama. He often avoided the full orchestra, and he rejected the common practice of using a leitmotiv to identify characters with their own personal themes. He instead matched a theme to the action, while avoiding the underlining of every action with exaggerated emphasis.
Another technique Copland employed was to keep silent during intimate screen moments and only begin the music as a confirming motive toward the end of a scene. Virgil Thompson wrote that the score for Of Mice and Men established "the most distinguished populist musical style yet created in America." Many composers who scored for western movies, particularly between 1940 and 1960, were influenced by Copland's style, though some also followed the "Max Steiner" approach, which was more bombastic and obvious. As a commentator on film scores, Copland singled out Bernard Herrmann, Miklós Rózsa, Alex North and Erich Wolfgang Korngold as innovative leaders in the field.
Copland's score for The North Star (1943) was nominated for an Academy Award, and his score for William Wyler's 1949 film, The Heiress won the award. Several themes from his scores are incorporated in the suite Music for Movies. His score for the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel The Red Pony was arranged by commission of the Houston Symphony Orchestra as a suite for their performance in October 1948 and became widely popular. His score for the 1961 independent film Something Wild was released in 1964 as Music For a Great City. Copland also composed scores for two documentary films, The City (1939) and The Cummington Story (1945).
When commenting on the effectiveness of film scores, Copland said: "I'd love to be able to have audiences see a film with the music, then see it a second time with the music turned off, and then see it a third time with the music turned on. Then, I think they'd get a much more specific idea of what the music does for a film.".
Critic, writer, and teacher
Copland had a large following of pupils—often mixing his personal life with them. Of notable students, Leonard Bernstein and Victor Kraft were two with whom he continued having intimately personal relationships. Bernstein would go on to champion Copland as one of the greatest American composers of all time while being one of the few people Copland opened up to.
Copland also wrote prolifically on the subject of music. Across decades, Copland has published pieces on music criticism analysis on musical trends, and on his own compositions. Starting with his first critiques in 1924, Copland began a long career as music critic, teacher, and observer, mostly of contemporary classical music. He was an avid lecturer and lecturer-performer. He wrote reviews of specific works, trends, composers, festivals, books about music, and recordings. He took on a wide range of issues from the most general ("Creativity") to the most practical ("Composer Economics"). Copland also wrote three books, "What to Listen for in Music (1939)", "Our New Music (1941)", and "Music and Imagination" (1952). He had a long list of notable students (see below). Copland put a good deal of time and energy into supporting young musicians, especially through his association with the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, both as a guest conductor and teacher. In working with young composers, Copland thought it more important to focus on expressive content than on technical points.
Copland studied conducting in Paris in 1921, but not until his involvement conducting his own Hollywood scores, did he undertake it except out of necessity. On his international travels in the 1940s, however, he began to make appearances as a guest conductor, performing his own works. By the 1950s, he was conducting the works of other composers as well. From the 1960s on, he conducted far more than he composed.
A self-taught conductor, Copland developed a very personal style. He occasionally asked friend Leonard Bernstein for advice. Copland took an understated and unpretentious approach to conducting and modeled his style after other composer/conductors such as Stravinsky and Hindemith. Observers of Copland noted that he had "none of the typical conductorial vanities". Though his friendly and modest persona, and his great enthusiasm, were appreciated by professional orchestra musicians, some criticized his beat as "unsteady" and his interpretations as "unexciting". Some of his peers, like Koussevitzky, went even further, advising him to "stay home and compose". Copland thoroughly enjoyed conducting but admitted that he did it in part because in the last seventeen years of his life he felt little inspiration to compose. He was offered "permanent" conducting posts but preferred to operate as a guest conductor. Nearly all of Copland's conducting appearances included his own works, which added to the intoxication of conducting. As he stated, "Conducting puts one in a very powerful position ... Best of all, it is a use of power for a good purpose." It also allowed him the freedom to travel which he always enjoyed.
Copland was a strong advocate for newer music and composers, and his programs always included heavy representation of 20th-century music and lesser-known composers. Performers and audiences generally greeted his conducting appearances as positive opportunities to hear his music as the composer intended, but sometimes found his efforts with other composers to be lacking. From Copland's point of view, he found both the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra to be "tough" groups, resistant to newer music. Newton Mansfield, violinist with the New York Philharmonic, stated, "The orchestra didn't take him too seriously. It was like going out to a nice lunch." Copland also found resistance from European orchestras; however, he was warmly received and respected in England. Copland recorded nearly all his orchestral works with himself conducting.
- On September 14, 1964, Aaron Copland was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson.
- In honor of Copland's vast influence on American music, on December 15, 1970 he was awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit. Beginning in 1964, this award "established to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression."
- Copland was awarded the New York Music Critics' Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize in composition for Appalachian Spring. His scores for Of Mice and Men (1939), Our Town (1940), and The North Star (1943) all received Academy Award nominations, while The Heiress won Best Music in 1950.
- He was a recipient of Yale University's Sanford Medal.
- In 1986, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
- He was awarded a special Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress in 1987.
- He was made an honorary member of the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in 1961 and was awarded the fraternity's Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award in 1970.
See also: List of compositions by Aaron Copland
- Aaron Copland: A Self-Portrait (1985). Directed by Allan Miller. Biographies in Music series. Princeton, New Jersey: The Humanities.
- Appalachian Spring (1996). Directed by Graham Strong, Scottish Television Enterprises. Princeton, New Jersey: Films for the Humanities.
- Copland Portrait (1975). Directed by Terry Sanders, United States Information Agency. Santa Monica, California: American Film Foundation.
- Fanfare for America: The Composer Aaron Copland (2001). Directed by Andreas Skipis. Produced by Hessischer Rundfunk in association with Reiner Moritz Associates. Princeton, New Jersey: Films for the Humanities & Sciences.
- Copland, Aaron (1939; Revised 1957), What to Listen For in Music, New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, reprinted many times.
- Copland, Aaron (2006). Music and Imagination, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-58915-5
- Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia
- "Aaron Copland – Pronunciation – Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com".
- Pollack 1999, p. 186
- Pollack 1999, p. 15
- Cone, Edward T.; Copland, Aaron (January 1, 1968). "Conversation with Aaron Copland". Perspectives of New Music. 6 (2): 57–72. doi:10.2307/832353.
- Pollack 1999, p. 16
- Paton, David W. (July 1, 1905). 1905 State of New York Census. Ninth Election District, Block "D", Eleventh Assembly District, Borough of Brooklyn, County of Kings. p. 36.
- Ross, p.266.
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- Pollack 1999, p. 101
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- Pollack 1999, pp. 115-16.
- Copland and Perlis 1984, pp. 134-5.
- Pollack, p. 116.
- Pollack 1999, p. 164
- Pollack 1999, p. 170
- Pollack 1999, pp. 178, 215
- Berger, Arthur (1953). Aaron Copland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Smith 1953, p. 162.
- Copland 1984, p. 217.
- Pollack 1999, p. 303
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- Copland and Perlis 1984, p. 245.
- Pollack 1999, p. 310
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- Smith 1953, p. 187.
- Pollack 1999, p. 323.
- Interview, Eugene Loring with Perlis, by telephone, 14 December 1981.[full citation needed] Loring died 30 August 1982.
- Smith 1953, p. 184.
- Smith 1953, p. 185.
- Smith 1953, p. 169
- Pollack 1999, p. 91
- Smith, p. 182
- Pollack 1999, p. 93
- Pollack 1999, pp. 410, 418
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- Smith, p. 202
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- Pollack, p. 456
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- Pollack, p. 465
- Smith, p. 217
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- Music Directors, Ojai Music Festival.
- Smith, p. 289
- Finding aid for the George Trescher records related to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Centennial, 1949, 1960–1971 (bulk 1967–1970). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- Pollack, p. 516
- Staff (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Pollack, p. 548
- Smith, p. 60
- Pollack, p. 284–85
- Pollack, p. 452, 456
- Pollack, p. 458
- Pollack 1999, p. 285
- Howard Pollack (1999). Aaron Copland:: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. University of Illinois Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-252-06900-0.
Arnold Dobrin similarly reported, "Aaron Copland has not followed the religion of his parents. He is an agnostic but one who is deeply aware of the grandeur and mystery of the universe."
- Pollack 1999, p. 328.
- Pollack 26
- Aldrich and Wotherspoon, Who's who in gay and lesbian history, London, 2000
- "Archives of American Art's New Show Reveals Stories of Gay America".
- Aaron Copland, The Selected Correspondence of Aaron Copland By Aaron Copland, pp. 69–72
- Pollack, p. 49
- Smith, p. 39
- Pollack, p. 65
- Pollack, p. 120
- Smith, pp. 292–4
- Pollack, p. 530
- Smith, pp. 223–5
- Pollack, p. 481
- Smith, p. 51
- Pollack, p. 44
- Pollack, p. 86
- Pollack, pp. 81–82
- Pollack, pp. 121–122
- Pollack, p. 123
- Pollack, p. 114
- Pollack, pp. 68, 138, 147.
- Pollack 1999, p. 302.
- The Story Behind my El Salon Mexico http://www.jstor.org/stable/943608
- Pollack 1999, p. 299.
- Pollack 1999, p. 300.
- Pollack & 1999 pp, 318-19, 325.
- Pollack 1999, p. 315.
- Pollack 1999, pp. 317, 320.
- Smith 1953, p. 189.
- Pollack 1999, p. 361.
- Pollack 1999, p. 361
- Pollack 1999, p. 412.
- Pollack 1999, p. 357.
- Pollack 1999, p. 358.
- Stepp's fiddle tune had been collected in 1937 by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax and published in Our Singing Country (1941). See Judith Tick's preface to John A. and Alan Lomax and Ruth Crawford Seeger's, Our Singing Country Folk Songs and Ballads (Dover, 2000), p. xvii.
- Pollack 1999, p. 374.
- Pollack 1999, p. 367.
- Pollack 1999, p. 372.
- Pollack 1999, p. 388.
- Grout and Palisca, p. [page needed].
- Hall, p. 51
- Pollack 1999, p. 402.
- Pollack, p. 410
- Pollack, p. 416
- Pollack, p. 417
- Pollack, p. 418
- Copland and Perlis, p. 151.
- Pollack 1999, p. 461.
- Pollack, pp. 445–6.
- Pollack, p.445
- Pollack, pp. 484–5
- Straus, p. 61.
- Straus, pp. 61–2.
- Straus, p. 60.
- Pollack, pp. 487–515
- Pollack, p. 336
- Smith, p. 179
- Pollack, p. 348
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- Pollack, p. 343
- Pollack, p. 349
- Pollack, p. 342
- Pollack, p. 350
- Smith, p. 215
- Smith, p. 201
- Hall, p. 41
- Smith, p. 265
- Smith, pp. 264–5
- Smith, p. 264
- Smith, p. 285
- Smith, p. 290
- Pollack 1999, pp. 534–35.
- Pollack 1999, p. 536
- Pollack 1999, p. 537.
- Pollack1999, p. 538.
- Pollack 1999, p. 533.
- Pollack 1999, p. 535
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- Pollack 1999, p. 540.
- "The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit Recipients".
- Pollack 1999, p. 404
- "Leading clarinetist to receive Sanford Medal". Tourdates.Co.uk. 31 August 2005.
- "Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Gold Medal Recipients". Clerk.house.gov. Archived from the original on 11 May 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- "Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Guide to Awards" (PDF). sinfonia.org. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
- Berger, Arthur (1953). Aaron Copland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Copland, Aaron (1960). Copland on Music. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
- Copland, Aaron (1968). The New Music: 1900 to 1960. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
- Copland, Aaron; Vivian Perlis (1984). Copland 1900 Through 1942. New York, NY: St. Martins/Marek.
- Grout, Donald Jay, and Claude V. Palisca (1996). A History of Western Music, fifth edition. New York & London: W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 978-0-393-96904-7 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-393-96958-0 (pbk).
- Hall, Roger Lee (2014). Simple Gifts: Great American Folk Song. Stoughton, MA: PineTree Press.
- Hall, Roger (2015). A Guide to Film Music (6th ed.). Stoughton, MA: PineTree Press.
- Kamien, Roger (1997). Music: An Appreciation (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill College. ISBN 0-07-036521-0.
- Oja, Carol J.; Judith Tick (2005). Aaron Copland and His World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Pollack, Howard (1999). Aaron Copland. NY: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-8050-4909-6.
- Ross, Alex (2007). The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (1st ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- Smith, Julia (1953). Aaron Copland. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.
- Murchison, Gayle (2013). The American Stravinsky: The Style and Aesthetics of Copland’s New American Music, the Early Works, 1921–1938. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-09984-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aaron Copland.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Aaron Copland|
- Copland House
- American Masters "Aaron Copland" at www.pbs.org
- The Aaron Copland Collection, 1900–1990, Music Division, Library of Congress
- Review of "Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man" by R. James Tobin
- Who Was That Masked Composer? by David Schiff
- Aaron Copland and His World
- Aaron Copland On Film Music
- Aaron Copland material in the BBC Radio 3 archives
- Brief Copland Bio
- Music and Imagination (1952)
- The short film Copland Portrait (1975) is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- Keeping Score: Copland and the American Sound – Multimedia website produced by the San Francisco Symphony
- Aaron Copland Meets The Shakers
- Aaron Copland at NPR Music
- Aaron Copland at Find a Grave
- Aaron Copland's personal library on LibraryThing
- The Presidency Project – Remarks at the Presentation of the 1964 Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards.
- Lifetime Honors – National Medal of Arts