Jabberwocky for 2005 November 14 (entry 1)

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Yankee Doodle: Today is Aaron Copeland's birthday (105 years I believe.) The DJ on NPR was claiming that Copeland's music is "quintessentially American." That's the kind of thing they write on liner notes and never can define or explain. I wonder what makes music "American"? I know the stock answers for other art forms: wide open spaces, can-do attitude, rugged independence, the pioneer spirit. I can't see how to translate those into such an intangible as music.

So I listened to "Appalachian Spring." The American aspect can't be form--the ballet suite is very positively not an American invention. I tried to think if the music was a landscape-evocative experience, but the evocation was colored by my having seen the ballet on stage. Visually, yes, you can make something "be American." But how much of our folk music is originally American? Not much I bet; we are the proverbial melting pot.

Someone should start staging "Appalachian Spring" in alternative costumes and time periods, as is done with Shakespeare's plays, to see if its "Americanness" survives a change of scenery.


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