Classical Haiku: Aaron Copland
Your cityscapes are
such that one can hear big sky
between cement notes.
It is a delicious musical incongruity that Aaron Copland, the composer who better than any other created a sound that evokes the wide open American plains, was born and raised in New York City.
As such, it’s little surprise that Copland became one of the great American musical modernists. His childhood of skyscrapers and the overcrowded mechanization of The Big Apple rubbed off in dissonances at once sleek and striking.
At the same time, it is precisely this musical style that painted so well the feeling – perhaps better said, the ideal – of the open spaces of the American West.
With a language full of chords built of wide intervals, Copland’s music sounds wide open. And with a rich orchestral palette, Copland’s scores for Rodeo, Billy the Kid and the film The Red Pony, in particular, are as colorful as a desert sunset.
It is tempting to speak (as some have) of these particular Copland works as his “prairie” works, and to do so would not take those works outside the realm of modernism.
American architecture has a so-called Prairie School, a modernist take on home design propounded perhaps most famously by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Prairie School’s aesthetic emphasized openness of space through horizontal lines, the organic fusion of a structure with its environment and the seamless integration of outdoors with indoors.
Prairie School homes are accommodating and have a spacious feel as well as a crispness of line – not unlike Copland’s score for The Red Pony.
Today’s Classical Haiku is dedicated to Aaron Copland, the modern Yankee with a prairie soul.