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Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Aaron Copland was born on November 4, 1900, in New York City. His collection of works ranged from ballet and orchestral muic to and concertos and movie scores. Through his large collection of musical works, Copland quickly became one of the most prolific American composers. His contemporaries included Bartok, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky.

Copland began his musical career by taking a correspondence course on harmony writing. In 1921, he studied for three years under oragnist Nadia Boulanger at the newly founded school for Americans in Fountainebleau. Upon returning to America, Copland composed his first major work, Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, for his recent teacher Boulanger. The work premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1925.

Copland's compositions reflceted the musical creativeness occurring in America at the time. His works incorporated jazz rhythms and Neoclassicism traits. His groundbreaking year was 1936. It was in this year that Copland turned to a more simplistic style in hopes of creating a larger audience/listener base. During this time, some of his most popular works were composed.

This simple style of writing lasted through the 1950's. Beginning in the 1960's, Copland began experimenting with serial techinques of Schoenberg's 12-tone school. While these works were just as significant as his earlier ones, the audience reaction wasn't so positive.

Copland stopped composing in 1970, though he continued to lecture and conduct through the 1980's. In 1986, Copland was awarded the 120th Congressional Gold Medal for "creating a uniquely American style of composition". Composer Morton Gould spoke at the ceremony. Copland died December 2, 1990 in Tarrytown, New York. He was one of the few composers to ever live that had access to so many different styles, yet still create his own unique and greatly respected style.