Copland, Aaron – Ballets – 01 Billy the kid
Type of Spiritual Experience
From the website Gay Influence
A fortuitous side effect of [Copland’s love for Kraft] was Copland’s rebirth as a composer. He dropped his complicated, dense European style of writing and began filling scores with a fresh, simple kind of music, a reflection of the lifestyle he and Kraft had shared in Mexico. …
Copland then set about writing a string of hits, such as music for the ballet Billy the Kid and numerous film scores. Before he knew it, he found his soundtrack for the movie Of Mice and Men nominated for an Academy Award. Kraft had moved into Copland’s Manhattan apartment and took over the household, playing the role of charming host by planning and cooking for casual dinner parties. Kraft gave up his own career as a violinist to work in the field of photojournalism, going on to achieve great success in this endeavor. Kraft also insisted that Copland clear his schedule several times a year so that they could enjoy felicitous getaways as a couple.
At this time Fanfare for the Common Man, perhaps now the most recognizable 2-minute composition in history, came about as a commission from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942. It has since been used in advertising, films, rock anthems, and even as the wake-up call for astronauts. President Obama chose it to kick-off his inaugural celebrations in 2009. Success built upon success, and the cup that held Copland’s musical inspiration was suddenly filled to overflowing.
As Copland’s fame grew, Kraft saw to it that the composer had a stress-free home life. Victor planned vacations – local getaways as well as major treks to Cuba, South America and a return visit to Mexico. Kraft even found a cottage retreat for the pair when they needed a break from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Copland bought it, and they enjoyed their first stay in rural New Jersey in 1944. That summer Copland’s Appalachian Spring won the Pulitzer Prize. Two more film scores were nominated for an Academy Award, and his soundtrack for the film adaption of the Henry James novel The Heiress (1940) won the Academy Award for best musical score.
A description of the experience
Copland: Billy the Kid - Ballet Suite Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra Recorded December 18, 1955, in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pa. Released in February, 1957, as Columbia Masterworks ML-5157, coupled with Copland's "Appalachian Spring" ballet score. The approximate start times for each section is as follows:
(0:07) Introduction: The Open Prairie
(3:30) Street in a Frontier Town
(10:02) Card Game at Night
(13:08) Gun Battle
(15:06) Celebration Dance
(17:24) Epilogue: The Open Prairie Again
Copland's ballet music established him as an authentic composer of American music much as Stravinsky's ballet scores connected the composer with Russian music and came at an opportune time. He helped fill a vacuum for American choreographers to fill their dance repertory and tapped into an artistic groundswell, from the motion pictures of Busby Berkeley and Fred Astaire to the ballets of George Balanchine and Martha Graham, to both democratize and Americanize dance as an art form.
- Grohg; ballet (1925, revised 1932)
- Hear Ye! Hear Ye! ballet for orchestra (1934)
- Billy the Kid; ballet (1938)
- Rodeo; ballet (1942)
- Appalachian Spring; ballet (1944)
Billy the Kid became, in Pollack's words, an "archetypical depiction of the legendary American West." Based on a Walter Noble Burns novel, with choreography by Eugene Loring, Billy was among the first to display an American music and dance vocabulary. Copland used six cowboy folk songs to provide period atmosphere and employed polyrhythm and polyharmony when not quoting these tunes literally to maintain the work's overall tone.
The ballet premiered in New York in 1939, with Copland recalling "I cannot remember another work of mine that was so unanimously received." Along with the ballet Rodeo, Billy the Kid became, in the words of musicologist Elizabeth Crist, "the basis for Copland's reputation as a composer of Americana" and defines "an uncomplicated form of American nationalism."