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American Composers from A-Z (Part 2: Copland, Aaron)

In our last blogpost we introduced blind musician Francis Joseph Campbell. Today’s entry is about one of the most famous American composers who had close connections to the Library of Congress: Aaron Copland.

Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 14, 1900. He studied music from an early age and received formal training in theory and composition with Rubin Goldmark. From 1921 to 1924, Copland lived in Paris, where he studied with Ricardo Viñes (piano) and with Nadia Boulanger (composition), and where he met other influential composers, artists and authors of his time. Back in the United States, Copland received the first 1925-1926 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in music. In addition to being an outstanding composer, Copland worked as a teacher and author. Copland died on December 2, 1990, in North Tarrytown, New York.

Copland is best known for the compositions El Salón México (1932–6), Billy the Kid (1938), Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), Rodeo (1942), Appalachian Spring (1943-44), and his Third Symphony (1944-46).

Among his compositions, Appalachian Spring has a very special role with regards to the Library of Congress: The Coolidge Foundation commissioned this work for dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, and the first performance was given here at the Library of Congress in 1944. Besides being highly popular, Appalachian Spring also won in 1945, both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award.

For those readers interested in conducting further research on Aaron Copland using primary source materials, the Library of Congress has much to offer online and on site. 982 items of the Aaron Copland Collection are digitally available. The Martha Graham at the Library of Congress Collection counts 1,139 items available for research. You can look at sketches from the composer, and the correspondence between Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and the Library of Congress working out details about Appalachian Spring.

Other blog posts about Appalachian Spring include Connections: Participating in Pride Month and Documenting Dance: The Making of “Appalachian Spring.”

Accessible materials at the NLS Music Section include:

An Aaron Copland Portrait. Reading time 52 minutes. Interview with Aaron Copland, who discusses the use of folk material in his opera The Tender Land, and a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Copland, of two suites from the opera. (DBM 00134)

What to Listen for in Music. Text by Aaron Copland, with introduction by William Schuman. (DB 33377). Also available in 2 volumes of contracted braille (BR 03505).

The World’s 50 Greatest Composers. Aaron Copland. Reading time 57 minutes. (DBM 01666)

Music and Imagination. Text by Aaron Copland, in large print format. (LPM 00317)

The Cat and the Mouse. Scherzo Humoristique. For piano solo. 11 pages in bar over bar format. (BRM 2241)

Old American Songs: Newly Arranged. 1st set: The Boatmen’s Dance. The Dodger. Long Time Ago. Simple Gifts. I bought Me a Cat — 2nd set. The Little Horses. Zion’s Walls. The Golden Willow Tree. At the River. Ching-a-Ring Chaw. (BRM 28541)

Piano Sonata. For piano solo in bar over bar format. (ΒRΜ 19497)

Billy the Kid: Excerpts from the Ballet, for two pianos, 4 hands, 2 volumes in bar over bar format. (BRM 20403)

Four Piano Blues, for piano solo. 19 pages in bar over bar format. (BRM 22942)

I bought Me a Cat. Includes a performance of the song with accompaniment, a reading of the lyrics for diction guidance, a translation of the song, a recording of the melody (on piano) and a separate recording of the piano accompaniment alone for use in practice. (DBM 01846)

The Little Horses. Includes a performance of the song with accompaniment, a reading of the lyrics for diction guidance, a translation of the song, a recording of the melody (on piano) and a separate recording of the piano accompaniment alone for use in practice. (DBM 01852)


American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: B (Part 2 – Bischoff, John W.)

John Bischoff was an American composer and organist who worked at the First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. from 1874 until his death in 1909. Blind since the age of two, Bischoff attended the Wisconsin School for the Blind and later studied singing and organ before moving to Washington, D.C. His obituary from the May […]

Remembering the Father of the Blues

Today’s blog celebrates the career of W.C. Handy. Born in Florence, Alabama on November 16, 1873, William Christopher Handy became interested in music at an early age. His father, a minister, felt that music was an unwise career choice for him and, indeed, the young Handy experienced years of poverty and homelessness at first. But […]

Veterans Day and Armistice Day – Composers in World War I

This blog takes a look at composers who were affected by World War I and the music that they composed.

Celebrating that “Parisienne Gaiety”

When I was a teenager, I began learning about classical music by listening to radio programs in the evening. Often the shows would begin with an overture or “light classic”, such as the Light Cavalry Overture (which our school band played), or the William Tell Overture (the “Lone Ranger” to me). There was also a […]

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: A (Part 1)

The following is a guest blog post from the new section head of the NLS Music Section, Juliette Appold. Have you ever thought about listing classical and contemporary composers by their last names from A to Z? How about identifying American composers from A to Z? And how about filling the alphabet with names of […]

From Loose Change to Reconciliation in Beethoven Quartets

Often the blogs we write have something to do with the calendar: a historic event, date of birth or death, etc. but this blog concerns a favorite topic of mine. Going through all the Robert Greenberg courses that the Music Section offers, I found one called “The String Quartets of Beethoven.” So I got the […]

Connections: Participating in Pride Month

Recently on June 9th-10th, I had the pleasure to present some treasures at the recent “Pride in the Library: LGBTQ+ Voices in the Library of Congress Collections” exhibit. This was in the Jefferson Building and there was great interest in what was on display.  The attendance record (2,365 visitors over three days) illustrates the level of […]

An American Classic: Irving Berlin

We’ve discussed show-tunes, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook on the blog before, but we have yet to talk about perhaps one of the most influential composers of American standards: Irving Berlin, who happens to celebrate his 129th birthday today. Along with penning a few Broadway scores, including the score for Annie Get Your Gun, […]

Ganne, Alford, Holst, and Others: Music of World War I

This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. The Library of Congress is commemorating that significant anniversary with exhibits, publications, and other various activities. As part of this commemoration, the NLS Music Section was asked to provide braille music for blind visitors. While going through the collection, we […]