Aaron Copland (1990-1990), the "Dean of American Composers," was born on this day in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of five children of Russian-Jewish immigrants. With musical creations that ranged from ballet to folk songs to film scores, he shaped popular culture with his brilliance for over 40 years.
"If you want to understand music better, you can do nothing more important than listen to it," he once said.
In 1921, Copland left for Paris to study with the famous organist Nadia Boulanger. Copland wrote the ballet Grohg, which relied on folk inspirations. His Symphony for Organ and Orchestra premiered at Carnagie Hall in 1925.
"The beautiful melody, like a piece of music in is entirity... must give us a sense of completion and of inevitability," he said.
Searching for cultural diversity, Copland experimented with jazz rhythms, orchestra pieces, and folk flavors. He wrote El Salón México (1935) to celebrate the spirit of Mexico. The versatile musician composed the score for the films Of Mice and Men (1939), Our Town (1940).
Always, he looked to improve the genre he was working in. "The cultural level of music is certain to be raised if better music is written for films," he explained and was inspired by the music of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.
Copland wrote Agnes De Mille's Rodeo (1942), a ballet that was uniquely characterized by folk songs of the American West. Admired by his peers, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring (1944), the joyous celebration of 19th century American rural life.
"Inspiration may be a form of super-consciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness—I wouldn't know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness," he said.
Look for inspiration... every day!