Post image for Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland

Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland

by admin on November 14, 2014

From the award-winning composer Aaron Copland comes a piece by the name of Appalachian Spring. When written, it was considered marvelous and beautiful. He was commissioned to write the piece for Martha Graham for a ballet. Copland wrote this piece in 1944 as a piece that was originally intended for thirteen instruments due to size constraints. It has also been arranged as an orchestral suite which was just as successful. This article investigates this piece as an anthem to the American person.

One of the biggest stories behind the piece is the creation of its title. When Copland was writing this piece he had no idea what he would name it. Its working title would later be known as Martha’s Ballet. It was later discovered that the title was suggested to him in the poem The Dance by Hart Crane in his collection The Bridge. Copland has revealed in interviews that he wasn’t even thinking of the Appalachian Mountains as he was writing it, however there is an invisible knot that now ties the two together. The name surely tries to pull people to think of the song as an American staple when it is brought up.

The story that lies behind the title also serves to mark Appalachian Spring as a song that shows itself as American rather than just a musical piece. In a sentence, the ballet tells the story of a newlywed couple in colonial Pennsylvania. To the average American, colonial times might not seem like such an important aspect of life today, and although they aren’t, it seems to reflect pride to be part of a nation that has built up from these foundations. Being able to relate to a poem, piece of music, or a story is something we like to do in order to feel connected to a larger group of people.

Appalachian Spring could  grow to become a larger part of American society, since after all it does tell an American story itself. This is a very common problem that is encountered with instrumental pieces of work; there is no sure way to relate to only one group of people as aforementioned (namely the Americans). I have surveyed people of several different backgrounds and age groups around Asheville. Through my results I found that nearly all of them describe “The Star Spangled Banner” as the quintessential American song, which also has a story of its own.

Musically, Appalachian Spring has accomplished a great deal among musicians. The song has gotten much positive feedback, some of which is shown through comments describing it as “descending like sunlight upon a pastoral scene” or “lush chords giving it intensity”. At the end of the piece Copland puts a variations arrangement on the traditional Shaker’s Melody.  This is the most recognizable part in the ballet, and although not written by Copland, it does seem fair to say that he brought it to more people’s attention. Altogether the music ranges from the slow  steady sections to the light-hearted fast sections.

by Alex Frank


Scher, Valerie. “A ‘fortuitous Collaboration’ Led to ‘Appalachian Spring’ | The San Diego Union-Tribune.” A ‘fortuitous Collaboration’ Led to ‘Appalachian Spring’ | The San Diego Union-Tribune. N.p., 6 Mar. 2005. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

Milestones of the Millenium.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

rotche cheranz roflo February 20, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Very well said tnz..I enjoy reading

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