Aaron Copland

On this date in 1900, Aaron Copland was born. The great American composer of numerous ballets (including Appalachian Spring), operas, symphonies and orchestral works (including El Salon Mexico), concertos, film scores (including Of Mice and Men), chamber music, piano and choral works, was not religious. "[A]lthough retaining strong memories of the music he heard in the synagogue and at Jewish weddings," Professor Howard Pollack writes, "Copland evidenced little direct connection with Judaism or Jewish culture. He was neither religious nor observant. He rarely attended a synagogue service. . . His friend and protege, Leonard Bernstein, would tease him by saying that he was not a 'real Jew.' To all appearances, and by all accounts, he was what many might call a secular humanist." Professor Leon Botstein writes: "He emerged as an adult without an ongoing connection to religion." The Protestant sentiments in lyrics such as "Simple Gifts" from Appalachian Spring reflect, of course, the beliefs of Shaker American settlers, not Copland's own world view. Aaron Copland lived and died as a nonbeliever. His will specified that his funeral service, if any, be "non-religious." [Leon Botstein, "Copland Reconfigured," Aaron Copland and His World. (Carol Oja and Judith Tick, editors,) Princeton University Press, 2005] D. 1990.

“[On "inspiration"] To explain the creative musician's basic objective in elementary terms, I would say that a composer writes music to express and communicate and put down in permanent form certain thoughts, emotions and states of being. These thoughts and emotions are gradually formed by the contact of the composer's personality with the world in which he lives. He expresses these thoughts . . . in the musical language of his own time.”

—Aaron Copland, "A Modernist Defends Modern Music," New York Times, December 25, 1949

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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