Copland, Aaron – Film scores and radio – 01 Of Mice and Men
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
When Hollywood beckoned "serious" composers in the 1930s with promises of better films and higher pay, Copland saw both a challenge for his abilities as a composer and an opportunity to expand his reputation and audience for his more serious works.
In a departure from other film scores of the time, Copland's work largely reflected his own style, instead of the usual borrowing from the late-Romantic period. He often avoided the full orchestra, and he rejected the common practice of using a leitmotiv to identify characters with their own personal themes. He instead matched a theme to the action, while avoiding the underlining of every action with exaggerated emphasis.
Another technique Copland employed was to keep silent during intimate screen moments and only begin the music as a confirming motive toward the end of a scene. The majority of Copland’s film scores were composed around the 1940s. Examples include:
- The City; film score (1939)
- Of Mice and Men; film score (1939)
- Our Town; film score (1940)
- The North Star; soundtrack (1943)
- The Cummington Story; film score (1945)
- The Red Pony; film score (1948)
- The Heiress; soundtrack (1948)
- The World of Nick Adams; soundtrack (1957)
- Something Wild; soundtrack (1960)
Virgil Thompson wrote that the score for Of Mice and Men established "the most distinguished populist musical style yet created in America."