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Historical Perspective

On June 29, 1962, Life Magazine featured Aaron Copland's composition Down a Country Lane. The piece was commissioned by Life Magazine in hopes of making quality music available to the common pianist and student. The work was featured along with an article title "Our Bumber Crop of Beginning Piano Players". The article explains, "Down a Country Lane fills a musical gap: It is among the few modern pieces specially written for young piano students by a major composer." Copland is quoted in the article of saying "Even third-year students will have to practice before trying it in public." Copland then explains the title: "The music is descriptive onlyin an imaginative, not a literal sense. I didn't think to the title until the piece was finished--Down a Country Lane' just happened to fit its flowing quality."

Copland is very descriptive in his directions on how the piece should be played. The piece begins with instructions to play "gently flowing in a pastoral mood"; a brief midsection is slightly dissonant and to be played "a trifle faster"; and the ending returns to the previous lyrical mood. Down a Country Lane was orchestrated for inclusion in a Youth Orchestra Series and premiered on November 20, 1965 by the London Junior Orchestra. The band arrangement was completed by Merlin Patterson in 1988. Patterson specialized in Copland transcriptions. Copland himself spoke of Patterson's excellent work upon the completion of Down a Country Lane, saying that he produced "a careful, sensitive, and most satisfying extension of the mood and content of the original." Patterson graduated Sam Houston State University where his principal teachers were Newton Strandberg, Fisher Tull, and Ralph Mills. He transcribed two other Copland pieces for band: Appalachian Spring and Letter from Home.