Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is one of the titans of American art music. A native New Yorker, he went to France at age 21 and became the first American to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger. His Organ Symphony, written for Boulanger, provided his breakthrough into composition stardom. After experimenting with many different styles, he became best known for his idiomatic treatment of Americana, leaving behind such chestnuts as The Tender Land (1954), Billy The Kid (1938), and Appalachian Spring (1944). This last piece won Copland the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1945. He was also an acclaimed conductor and writer.
John Steinbeck’s 1933 novella The Red Pony was adapted into a feature length film of the same name in 1949. Aaron Copland composed the score for the film. The Oklamhoma City University band program note database provides more information on the music and its origin:
Copland wrote the music for the film The Red Pony in 1948, on the studio lot of Republic Pictures in the San Fernando Valley, California. The orchestral concert suite, completed during August of the same year, was prepared in response to a commission from Efrem Kurtz, who included it in his first program as conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra on October 30, 1948. The band version of The Red Pony was made by the composer in 1966. Four movements of the six-part orchestral suite were retained as best suitable for band transcription. The first performance of this work was scheduled for the U.S. Navy Band under Anthony Mitchell at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in December 1968.
John Steinbeck’s well-known tale is a series of vignettes concerning a ten-year-old boy named Jody and his life in a California ranch setting. In the first movement, “Dream March and Circus Music”, Jody has a way of going off into daydreams. Two of them are pictured here: in the first, Jody imagines himself with the cow-hand Billy Buck at the head of an army of knights in silvery armor; in the second, Jody is a whip-cracking ringmaster at the circus. The fourth movement, “Happy Ending”, contains a folk-like melody suggesting the open-air quality of country living and then builds to a climax.
Scoredaddy blog entry on Copland’s Red Pony score. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a link to download the original LP recording of the full soundtrack.
Copland has a huge presence on the internet, thus this site will feature only the main portals into his work. Please click far beyond the sites listed here for a complete idea of Copland’s footprint on the web.
Fanfare for Aaron Copland – a blog with information on the composer, extraordinarily useful links, and some downloadable versions of old LP recordings. This is the place to explore the several links beyond the main site.
New York Times archive of Copland-related material. Includes reviews of his music and books as well as several fascinating articles that he wrote.
Now some videos. At last, a full band recording has emerged. This comes from the Gustavus Wind Orchestra:
Here are a couple of the movements (Dream March and Circus Music) in the orchestra version:
Some highlights of the rest of the music in this trailer/preview for the movie: