• Art S.

Birthday of Aaron Copland, 1900

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: November 14, 1900

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#onthisday, 1900, Jewish-American classical music legend, Aaron Copland is born. He would become as responsible as anyone for making classical music accessible to the people and sewing it to the fabric of America.

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Copland was born to Jewish parents who had immigrated from Russia and grew up, surrounded by four siblings, in a conservative Jewish home. Copland’s biographers have claimed the family name was Kaplan, although who and where it was changed is not known with certainty. Although he had a bar-mitzvah, Copland would not live the life of devout Jewish practice.

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Copland began playing music at a young age and at seventeen was studying composition with the renown, teacher Ruben Goldmark. He would join the Lost Generation in Paris during the Twenties and spend three years studying in Paris with the equally distinguished Nadia Boulanger.

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But after working in the modernist tradition, Copland found his signature style and greatest fame in a distinctly different American modernism.

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This infused a democratic vision into classical compositions that could take their place alongside the jazz of Louis Armstrong and popular song of George Gershwin as part of the American sound.

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Less abstract and avant-garde and more attuned to the myths of the American West, Copland led a generation of composers such as Virgil Thompson and Roger Sessions to create their own anthems for the nation during the Great Depression and years of WWII.

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Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man would, for many Americans, define those periods. And yet despite the deep patriotism of his folk ballads, Copland was caught up in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the Cold War and blacklisted in the early 50's.

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Still, his composing and teaching continued apace through that decade and, with his energies turning to conducting as well, his career flourished for another three decades. In 1964, Copland was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson. He died in 1990.

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Text Source:

https://www.biography.com/musician/aaron-copland

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