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Copland, Aaron – Film scores and radio – 02 The Heiress



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

Aaron Copland "The Heiress" Suite

"The Heiress" is a 1948 Paramount Pictures film directed by William Wyler. Olivia de Havilland, who received a much deserved Oscar for her performance, is supported by such established stars as Montgomery Clift, Sir Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins and Mona Freeman.

Aaron Copland received an Oscar for his original score, but refused to accept the statuette because his main title music had been tampered with [Wyler instructed Nathan Van Cleve, another Paramount composer, to substitute J.P.E. Martini's "Plaisir d'amour" for much of Copland's music under the credits].

This recording features Leonard Slatkin [whose parents performed in many recordings featuring scores composed by others for films in which Olivia de Havilland appeared] conducting the St Louis Symphony Orchestra. Recording © 1994 BMG Music.


If the situation dictated, as it did with his film scores, Copland could work quickly. Otherwise, he tended to write slowly whenever possible. ‘Even with deliberation’.  But we should not assume that his film music is any the less by being written in a hurry.  Copland would simply take past ‘nuggets’ and incorporate them.

From No Minor Chords – Andre Previn

Perhaps the only major American composer to beat this rap was Aaron Copland, whose scores for Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and The Heiress elevated those films by considerable notch. However, even this dean of American composers had his title music for Heiress rewritten by contract studio orchestrator, and it is fascinating to listen to this film when it surfaces on television. It begins with music under the credits; music that is slick, pretty, and utterly vapid. Then, suddenly, approximately two minutes along, there is a gearshift, and Copland's music takes over, spare and angular and gorgeous. It's like suddenly finding a diamond in a can of Heinz beans.

The source of the experience

Copland, Aaron

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