Aaron Copland (1900–1990) was the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants to America who owned and operated a department store in Brooklyn. Copland showed musical ability from a young age, and he began studying classical piano seriously in his teenage years. After high school graduation, he continued his musical education in theory and composition and began a lifelong interest in exploring his contemporary musical landscape through performances and published pieces. Copland’s family members were observant Jews in Brooklyn, though not as culturally isolated as Russian Jews who arrived in New York in later years. He grew up with knowledge of spoken Yiddish and some knowledge of Hebrew. His parents educated him in the Jewish tradition and sent him to Jewish summer camps each year. One summer he met Aaron Schaffer (son of a Baltimore rabbi), a Zionist student at Johns Hopkins who attempted to convince Copland to emigrate with him to Israel. However, judging by his autobiographical statements, his main association with the Judaism of his youth came through music.
At the age of 21, Copland traveled to France where he spent three years in training with Nadia Boulanger, for whom he would write his Four Motets, a student piece drawing upon the biblical psalms. These years were a vibrant time of cultural engagement and learning for the young man, as he grew to love the music of Stravinsky and other European masters, traveled throughout the European continent, and absorbed the lessons of modernism at its source. Upon returning to New York in 1924, Copland began teaching part-time at the New School for Social Research and collaborating with many of the city’s most important artists, composers, and performers. However, his resolutely modern style of composition was slow to gain a popular audience in the United States. In order to earn a living, he was active as a writer, concert promoter, and music publisher.
If Copland’s social style was formed in the vibrant and changing world of the arts in 1920s New York, it was during the Great Depression of the 1930s that he formed his social conscience while traveling across the American West and while engaging with socialists and the working poor from Minnesota to Mexico. During this period he composed Into the Streets May First, an early piece that provides clear evidence of his nascent socialist political leanings. As Copland’s work matured in the 1940s, he did not foreground this political rhetoric within his composition. However, he had developed a profound appreciation for the American land and its workers, and a populist aesthetic shines through in his most famous piece, Appalachian Spring (1943–1944). His travels in the American West had a tremendous impact on his musical sensibilities, and indeed Copland’s music has come to evoke the idea of America more than any other of the great American composers. He visited California and New Mexico as early as 1928 and spent significant periods of time in Hollywood working on movie scores. He said in an autobiographical sketch that the silent and guarded emptiness of the Samuel Goldwyn Studios at night “provided the required calm for evoking the peaceful, open countryside of rural Pennsylvania depicted in Appalachian Spring” (Kostelanetz, 2003, p. xxviii).
Although he enjoyed wide critical acclaim and popular appeal and even traveled as a cultural ambassador under the aegis of the U.S. State Department, Copland came under anti-socialist scrutiny in the early 1950s and was summoned to testify before a congressional subcommittee. Nevertheless, the next two decades saw Copland rise to the position of preeminent American composer. He followed up his Pulitzer Prize for Appalachian Spring (1945) with a series of prestigious appointments and honors in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Norton Chair of Poetics at Harvard (1951–1952), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal (1961), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964). While very busy with writing and teaching, Copland also began extensive orchestral conducting in New York and internationally, presenting both his own music and that of many other composers.
Although Copland ceased his composition work in the 1970s and 1980s, it was during this era that his legacy was cemented in the public consciousness. He received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1979, a Congressional Gold Medal in 1986, and many other honorific titles around the world. In 1981, the Queens College Department of Music changed its name to the Aaron Copland School of Music, in honor of this icon of American music. Copland began to experience Alzheimer-like symptoms in the 1970s, and his health deteriorated through the 1980s. He died at the age of 90 of complications from pneumonia.
Copland composed material for a wide range of formats and musical settings. He wrote two operas, The Second Hurricane (1936) and The Tender Land (1952–1954); several ballets, including three of his most famous works, Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and Appalachian Spring; eight film scores, including the 1939 Oscar-nominated film Of Mice and Men, starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr.; and dozens of symphonic and chamber works, including Lincoln Portrait (1942), Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), and Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson (1949–1950).
Copland’s major musical influences were characteristically American forms: jazz, blues, and traditional folk. His interaction with these musical genres was not simple or slavish, however. He continued to combine and modulate these discrete elements until they came to embody within his work a distinctly American style. He says in his autobiographical sketch, for instance, that the public was incorrect to believe that Appalachian Spring was “folk inspired,” since he only quoted from one Shaker tune, “ ’Tis the Gift to Be Simple.” Rather, he says, his work shows a combination of a “certain American ambiente” with “specific folk themes … utilized and developed in a way that I like to think is my own” (Kostelanetz, 2003, p. xxviii). He is quoted as saying, “I don’t compose. I assemble materials.” Throughout his career, Copland continued to draw from developments within jazz, populist Americana motifs, and even international folk elements from Mexico and South America. His musical style can be described as using close harmonies with spare musical textures, strong and leaping melodies with only brief forays into atonality or abstraction, and clean instrumentation without excessive ornamentation. David Schiff has characterized Copland’s relationship with jazz as “colonial … where jazz would provide the raw material for art” (2002, p. 17) and suggests that he filtered jazz through European modernism and deconstructed its essential nature.
Turning to religious influences, Copland appreciated the loose and colorful Jewish music of his childhood experience and continued to read about Jewish music into his adult years. However, he was not personally religious or particularly connected to Judaism outside of his cultural associations (Pollack, 1999, p. 26). Gayle Murchison identifies several early and incomplete compositions related to Jewish and biblical themes and concludes that “Copland drew upon the music from everyday life that was closest to him … a mélange of Jewish sacred and secular music, popular music, and the standard classical repertoire” (2012, p. 137).
Several of his works drew upon Jewish themes and tradition and are thus relevant to this consideration of Copland and the Bible. In 1918, Copland composed a musical setting of “My Heart Is in the East,” a Zionist poem by his friend Aaron Schaffer. In 1919, he composed a Lament based upon the Hebrew prayer, “Adon Olam,” a praise of the “Eternal Master” who created the world, reigns in glory, and protects and redeems the faithful. While studying with Nadia Boulanger in 1921, Copland composed Four Motets, prayers modeled on biblical prayer and incorporating a range of Psalm motifs. In 1928, he produced a piano trio, Vitebsk, based on European Jewish ghetto life as seen in Saul Ansky’s play The Dybbuk. In 1938, he set a Jewish-Palestinian folk song, “Banu” (We’ve Come), that does not quote the Bible yet certainly evokes the worshipful joy of the Psalms of Ascent. Finally, in 1947 Copland published a choral setting of the first verses of Genesis, titled In the Beginning, which will be discussed in detail below.
Howard Pollack suggests in “Copland and the Prophetic Voice” (2005) that the Jewish and biblical aspects of Copland’s work are muted by the fact that most of his composition was instrumental with neutral titles. Even so, he says, commentators have identified biblical aspects of the music itself, particularly the “prophetic” aspects of Statements, an orchestral piece from 1934 with a movement titled “Prophecy.” Virgil Thomson described Copland as “a prophet calling out her sins to Israel,” a view that reflected Jewish stereotypes applied to musical style more than anything particular about Copland’s work. Copland’s fellow Jewish artists criticized his “dabbling” in Jewish identity—Saminsky accused him of crass opportunism in his use of Jewish songs—as opposed to Mahler’s real commitment. Leonard Bernstein famously described him as an embodiment of biblical Aaron, a musical priest for the people. As Murchison says, “Copland simply was in a no-win situation. … His supporters criticized him for not being Jewish enough. … His anti-Semitic detractors … saw Copland as an interloper from an immigrant culture that could never be fully and truly assimilated into the greater American cultural fabric” (2012, p. 140).
This particular identity crisis does not seem to have lingered in Copland’s own self-identification. All of his specifically Jewish pieces except Vitebsk were commissioned as such, and it appears that the Jewish elements of Copland’s composition were largely confined to his early career and were never as important as the larger American themes that dominated his work. In both musical and religious matters, Copland seems to have had an open and easy relationship with his cultural context, drawing widely and adapting freely. Whether this cultural translation represented a meaningful personal engagement with his influences is a matter for debate. The final product, however, is undeniably authentic to Copland’s own artistic vision.
Copland was also conversant with the Christian tradition. In addition to the Shaker tune used in Appalachian Spring, he produced settings of three hymns among his Old American Songs: “At the River,” “Simple Gifts,” and “Zion’s Walls.” In 1964, he wrote a piece for large band titled Emblems, in which portions of “Amazing Grace” are quoted. Overall, Copland’s religious beliefs would best be described as agnostic, tempered by his deep aesthetic union with art that oriented his spirit to “the ultimate good of the world and of life as I live it.”
The earliest work to consider is “My Heart Is in the East,” one of three poems by his friend Aaron Schaffer that Copland set to music. Schaffer was a Zionist who befriended Copland during the summer of 1916, and this poem is set against the backdrop of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that raised hopes for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The short poem evokes the Babylonian Exile and poetic expression that emerged from it. The poet compares the Arab possession of the Promised Land to the antagonism between biblical Judah and its neighbors, with the line, “How can I vows and oaths repay / While Edom Zion holds.” The reference to Zion and its captor Edom resonates with Lamentations 4:22, which contrasts the forgiven sins of “Fair Zion” with the coming punishment of “Fair Edom.” The music captures the deep longing and melancholy of the Exile traditions more than the militant fervor of twentieth-century Zionism.
Soon after, Copland published a piece titled Lament, an instrumental piece for cello and piano based upon the melody of the daily and shabbat Hebrew prayer, “Adon Olam.” The prayer expresses praise to the one God as creator and redeemer, upon whom people rely for help during times of trouble. It affirms that God is with the psalmist in both sleeping and waking and ends with “The Lord is with me, I will not fear” (Adonai li v’lo ‘ira). The prayer is traditionally recited at bedtime and also on one’s deathbed and at other sad occasions, and the mournful tone of Lament certainly evokes such scenes. This reflection on Jewish identity appears as well in Copland’s piano trio Vitebsk (1928), based on Ansky’s play, The Dybbuk, which depicted the social life of Eastern European Jews, and in his setting of the Jewish-Palestinian folk song “Banu” (We’ve Come) in 1938.
Copland’s early interest in Jewish poetry appears in Four Motets, his musical setting of four prayers that incorporate motifs and quotations from the Hebrew Bible poetic tradition, namely Psalms and Lamentations. Copland composed Four Motets in 1921 as a project for his teacher in France, Nadia Boulanger, who routinely required students to undertake such exercises. Boulanger was extremely impressed with the piece and performed it regularly for her students as an exemplar of superlative work. Copland did not publish Four Motets until 1979 because he considered it a student piece, saying that “while they have a certain curiosity value—perhaps people want to know what I was doing as a student—the style is not yet really mine” (Copland and Perlis, 1984, p. 78). Despite Copland’s own reservation, Four Motets is well regarded as an early example of his work. Jenkins finds foreshadowing here of Copland’s mature musical style, including “abrupt modulation, ostinato accompanying figures, imitation, stretto, harmonic cell development, and open fifth cadences all of which are seen in In the Beginning” (2001, p. 13).
The Four Motets comprises two prayers and two praise hymns in unaccompanied choral arrangement. The text of these pieces imitates the biblical poetic style, and individual phrases can be found within the lyrics. The first song, “Help Us, O Lord,” evokes biblical language of trusting in God while waiting for divine help, set with mournful and solemn voices. Copland has taken half of the lyrics directly from two verses in the King James Bible. God is described as the “fount of life” and the provider of “light,” the one to whom humans should “turn” as they “wait” and “hope” for God’s “salvation.” The first line, “Help us, O Lord” is followed by a quotation from Psalm 36:9: “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” Lines 6–8 are a restatement of Lamentations 3:26, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.”
The second prayer for help in the Four Motets is “Thou, O Jehovah, Abideth Forever.” This is a homophonic composition in which the soprano and tenor are sometimes paired with the alto and bass in melodic imitation. The prayer extols God’s reign over human history and expresses trust in God’s abiding redemption. As with the first motet, and in the Psalms of lament, expression of trust functions as a request for help in current trouble. Line 4 follows a description of God’s eternal throne with “Wherefore willst Thou forsake us ever?” The song as a whole draws upon and reframes the text of Lamentations 5:19–20: “Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?”
The third motet is a prayer titled “Have Mercy on Us, O My Lord,” and it draws loosely on language of supplication in the Psalms. The song asks God to “have mercy” and to “be not far” from us. In the Psalms, the phrase “be not far from me” occurs only in passages in which the psalmist is being attacked by enemies (Pss 22:11; 35:22; 38:21; 71:12). Such an adversarial situation coheres with Copland’s lyrics in the following lines that ask God to “attend” with “might” and to “uphold” with a “guiding hand.” These requests imply a community persecuted and endangered, who call on their God to rescue and vindicate them in the presence of their enemies. Copland’s lyrics do not foreground this rhetorical context, and indeed the musical setting is quiet and thoughtful, even mournful with a lilting hope.
The fourth song in Four Motets, “Sing Ye Praises to Our King,” is the most crisp and light of the musical settings. The lyrics draw upon Psalms that call upon all people to gather together and praise God for divine blessing, peace, and comfort. The biblical passage that comes closest to Copland’s text is Psalm 47, which includes calls for the people to “shout unto God with the voice of triumph” because “he is the great King over all the earth” (vv. 1–2). Verse 6 calls on the people to “sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.” As a group the Four Motets represent a creative engagement with the biblical text in which the musical setting emphasizes particular aspects of the source texts. In particular, the frustration that lies underneath biblical prayers for help has given way to plaintive lament, and there is no hint of a desire for revenge or political dominance over enemies.
Copland also produced musical settings for a number of Christian hymns, most notably in Old American Songs, a collection from the early 1950s that included “At the River,” “Simple Gifts,” and “Zion’s Walls.” Benjamin Britten asked Copland in 1950 to arrange a number of American folk songs for his Aldeburgh (England) Festival of Music and the Arts. The first batch of five songs was well received, especially in performances in America with Copland on the piano and vocals from the baritone William Warfield. Copland wrote a second set of five songs that included these three hymns in 1953.
“At the River” was written by the Baptist minister Robert Lowery in New York during the last year of the American Civil War. It reflects an eschatological hope for God’s restoration of a broken and violent world, drawing upon the New Testament book of Revelation, verses 22:1–5, which describes a river flowing from the presence of God to provide water for the Tree of Life, “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (v. 3).
The nineteenth-century Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” is based on a melody that Copland famously used in Appalachian Spring and that also appears in the popular modern hymn “Lord of the Dance” (Brooks, 2002, p. 107). The Shaker emphasis on simplicity and harmony reflects Shaker self-understanding as the eschatological community of Christ’s millennial reign. The Shaker vision of a peaceful existence relying on the direct provision of God reflects in its own way the apocalyptic hope of Revelation 22.
Finally, the song “Zion’s Walls” is a revivalist hymn from the mid-nineteenth-century American South. It is reminiscent of the biblical Psalms of Ascent, corporate praise hymns sung by pilgrims and worshipers as they made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem (biblical Zion). Copland reused this hymn in his opera The Tender Land. The call for family members to “come” and “to meet within the walls of Zion” evokes as well the vision in Revelation of the new Jerusalem that embodies the Kingdom of God, the place of reconciliation after the end of war, strife, and persecution.
As with the sweet, almost nostalgic, sound of the Four Motets, these hymns embed a deep social and political longing for peace and justice within a cathartic emotional expression. It is difficult to know what Copland’s intentions or subtext may have been, but these songs resonate easily with the Western postwar experience of both 1921 and 1953.
In the Beginning.
In 1947 Copland published a choral setting of the first 38 verses of Genesis, titled In the Beginning, his lengthiest and most complex choral work. Harvard University commissioned the piece for its Symposium on Music Criticism. Although the musicologist A. Tillman Merritt originally requested that he arrange a Hebrew text of his choice, Copland decided to use the King James Bible version of Genesis 1:1—2:7. In the Beginning contains the entire biblical text with no alterations. Copland wrote that he desired “to tell the oft-told story in a gentle narrative style using the biblical phrase ‘And the next day … ’ to round off each section” (Copland and Perlis, 1984, p. 215). The phrasing and repetition within Copland’s use of the KJV text accentuates well the austerity, beauty, and grandeur of the archaic English prose.
The work is for unaccompanied choir with a mezzo-soprano soloist. Conducted by Robert Shaw with Nell Tangeman singing the solo, it was well reviewed at the time and contributed to a renewed interest in choral music (Jenkins, 2001, p. 29). It was performed many times, often conducted by Copland himself. His most memorable performance was when he conducted the piece open-air by the shores of the Sea of Galilee in 1951, and he reminisced that “the setting and the experience of conducting my work in Israel gave the occasion a special quality” (Copland and Perlis, 1984, p. 75).
The music follows the rhythm of the text closely, and Copland uses multi-meters to permit the music to follow the flow of the words. Certain refrains hold the piece together, most notably the repeated eighth notes for “And the evening and the morning were the first day,” and each day after. Melodic “motives” appear in characteristic places in the text, repeated for instance with “In the beginning” and at the start of each day with “And God said,” and another to close each day or to accompany each instance of “And it was so” (Jenkins, 2001, pp. 49–52). Indeed, the tight musical structure of In the Beginning mirrors perfectly the liturgical framing and repetition of the Priestly text in Genesis 1:1—2:4A.
While the melodic strains remain consistent, Copland shifts the harmonic tonality abruptly throughout the piece (Jenkins, 2001, p. 53). The effect of this striking modulation of harmonies is to call attention to the different modes within the text itself, whether God is beginning a new creative moment, speaking something into being, or bringing each day to a close with an evening and a morning. The soloist voices the speech of God, providing a strong musical contrast with the busy and complex textures of the chorus that fills in the narrative text. These harmonic tensions and abrupt changes drive the narrative forward, with a powerful climax with the creation of humanity, “and man became a living soul.”
Copland’s interpretation of the Creation story through In the Beginning thus revolves around two dynamic poles: the structured and purposeful words of God that call the world into being and the swirling, chaotic tensions that respond to God’s word and eventually resolve to reveal an ordered creation ruled over by the highest created entity, humankind. Copland has intuitively grasped the theological tensions within the Priestly literature itself, which affirms both God’s providential structuring of the cosmos as well as the role of humanity in protecting the creation from the chaos that always threatens to unravel the cosmic order (Levenson, 1994).
This discussion has emphasized the elements of Copland’s oeuvre that draw specifically and significantly upon biblical imagery. In his early career, Copland was considered by his contemporaries to be a Jewish composer, and the majority of the works discussed here come from that period. As Copland came to express himself more through an American identity, he downplayed his association with the Jewish and biblical traditions. Even so, some of his contemporaries as well as modern scholars have emphasized the Jewish aspect of Copland’s identity.
In “Copland the Prophetic Voice,” his biographer Howard Pollack (2005) collects various links that have been made between Copland’s style and that of the biblical prophets. These claims include Virgil Thomson’s description of Copland’s music as “finely Hebraic” and Leonard Bernstein’s characterization of his “amiable, cultivated” personality as that of the spokesman Aaron hiding the “harsh and resolute prophet” of his brother Moses. Pollack himself suggests that five “distinct expressive modes” within Copland’s music correspond to aspects of biblical prophecy: the declamatory, the idyllic, the agitated, the sardonic, and the visionary.
This analysis may shed some light on Copland’s music sensibilities, but the description of Isaiah 1:16–17 as “declamatory” and of Isaiah 2:4 as “idyllic,” and so on, shows a somewhat uncritical reading of prophetic rhetoric and poetics. Pollack suggests that Copland’s work is visionary and “the biblical prophets were of course themselves great visionaries.”
While such direct links take the comparison too far, Copland himself used the word “Hebraic” to describe his Symphonic Ode (1929), associating that term with aspects of the “grandiose,” “dramatic,” and “tragic” in his music. This description evokes the tenor of biblical prophecy in a loose way, though one should not make too much of the connection. It is true, however, that even his later work expresses a kind of eschatological hope for American society—what Jessica Burr identifies as the “American Dream” (2002, p. 27). In this way, though Copland may never have used these words himself, there is a biblical and even prophetic weight to the work of this American master.
- Brooks, William. “Simple Gifts and Complex Accretions.” In Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews, edited by Peter Dickinson, pp. 103–117. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell, 2002. A study of the Shaker hymn that Copland adapted for Old American Songs and for Appalachian Spring, with emphasis on Copland’s commodification of a previously peripheral cultural element.
- Burr, Jessica. “Copland, the West and American Identity.” In Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews, edited by Peter Dickinson, pp. 22–28. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell, 2002. A consideration of Copland’s travel experiences in the American West as early influences on his Americana compositions.
- Copland, Aaron, and Vivian Perlis. Copland, 1900 through 1942. New York: St. Martins/Marek, 1984. A memoir of Copland’s early life and career drawing upon his own remembrances and the witness of contemporaries.
- Jenkins, Thomas Fredrick. “A Conductor’s Guide to the Preparation, Rehearsal, and Performance of Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning.” PhD diss., University of Southern Mississippi, 2001. A detailed description of the musical elements of In the Beginning and its precedents in Copland’s oeuvre.
- Kostelanetz, Richard, ed. Aaron Copland: A Reader: Selected Writings 1923–1972. New York: Routledge, 2003. Collects the most important excerpts from Copland’s voluminous writings over his career, organized topically.
- Levenson, Jon D. Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.
- Murchison, Gayle. The American Stravinsky: The Style and Aesthetics of Copland’s New American Music, the Early Works, 1921–1938. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012. An important recent study of Copland’s early career, with particularly valuable discussion of his connection with various religious, political, and cultural influences.
- Pollack, Howard. Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. New York: Henry Holt, 1999. The definitive modern biography of Copland and an essential resource.
- Pollack, Howard. “Copland the Prophetic Voice.” In Aaron Copland and His World, edited by Carol J. Oja and Judith Tick, pp. 1–14. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. A constructive argument for an identifiable “prophetic” element to Copland’s musical style, with comparisons drawn to biblical prophetic writings.
- Schiff, David. “Copland and the ‘Jazz Boys.’ ” In Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews, edited by Peter Dickinson, pp. 14–21. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell, 2002. A constructive argument that considers Copland’s “colonial” use of jazz elements in his composition.
- Copland, Aaron, and Vivian Perlis. Copland: Since 1943. New York: St. Martin’s, 1989. A memoir of Copland’s later life and career drawing upon his own remembrances and the witness of contemporaries.
- Crist, Elizabeth B. Music for the Common Man: Aaron Copland during the Depression and War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. A representative survey of Copland’s music during the 1930s and 1940s, with emphasis on Copland’s political engagement with progressivism, communism, and the Popular Front.
- Crist, Elizabeth B., and Wayne Shirley. The Selected Correspondence of Aaron Copland. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006. A comprehensive collection of Copland’s letters in every period of his life, with editorial annotations.
- Dickstein, Morris. “Copland and American Populism in the 1930s.” In Aaron Copland and His World, edited by Carol J. Oja and Judith Tick, pp. 81–100. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. A survey of the populist and socialist movement that influenced Copland—and that he helped create—in the 1930s and 1940s.
- Hubbs, Nadine. The Queer Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. An examination of the important role played in the creation of American music by a group of gay artists in New York, including Copland, Bernstein, and others.
- Latham, Edward D. Tonality as Drama: Closure and Interruption in Four Twentieth-Century American Operas. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2008. Includes a chapter on Copland’s The Tender Land (1954) arguing that Copland’s setting of Erik Johns’s libretto depicts incompleteness or longing.
- Levin, Gail, and Judith Tick, eds. Aaron Copland’s America: A Cultural Perspective. New York: Watson-Guptill, 2000. A general survey of Copland’s career in the context of the world in which he lived, particularly valuable for its many drawings and color photographs.
- Pollack, Howard. “Aaron Copland.” In The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2d ed. Grove Music Online, 2013. www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/A2249091. A brief but reliable survey of Copland’s life and work.
- Robertson, Marta, and Robin Armstrong. Aaron Copland: A Guide to Research. New York: Routledge, 2001. A comprehensive bibliography focused on works appearing since 1983.
- Skowronski, JoAnn. Aaron Copland: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985. A comprehensive biography of articles written about Copland’s music and career during his lifetime.
Bryan D. Bibb