See copyright notice at

Copland, Aaron

Bob Dylan and Aaron Copland

Throughout the Neverending Tour Bob Dylan has frequently eschewed an
opening act, instead beginning shows with selections of pre-recorded
classical orchestral music. Nearly peerless in his role defining and
defying the forms of 20th century music, Dylan would perhaps be the
equal of Stravinsky whose "Firebird" he has played on several

In October of 2001 Dylan began making his entrance to "Hoe Down" from
Aaron Copland's "Rodeo Suite". The piece begins with frenetic violins
and snare drums as though to spur a horse. Horns precede a joyful romp
of piano and pizzicato strings, while claves and a wooden xylophone
conjure up hoofbeats. The piece is reckless and restless and joyful,
full of optimism and outlaw spirit.

In addition to "Hoe Down", Dylan has also played other selections from
"Rodeo" as part of the pre-show entertainment. Perhaps Dylan feels
some affinity with Copland: both are given to a reworking of melodic
forms symbolising the American landscape. Copland took the cityscapes
of jazz and the wide western frontiers of folk melody and reworked the
themes for classical orchestra - the tune of "Simple Gifts" is
incorporated into "Appalachian Spring". Dylan had the folk songs too,
but where Copland had jazz, Dylan had last-train-north-to-Chicago
blues and the beginnings of rock and roll. Although Dylan's most
widely known lending of words comes in songs composed early in his
career, he has continued to rehear tunes like "St James Infirmary
Blues" (Blind Willie McTell). In the same way that Copland had
rescored the American musical idiom for classical orchestra, Dylan
rescored for pop and rock and roll.

- Kiri Nichol (June, 2002)

Aaron Copland: A Biography

Aaron Copland was a pioneer of American classical music. His pieces
for ballet, opera and film cultivated a distinctive American style
that drew on jazz, be-bop and traditional folk music. Born in
Brooklyn, New York on November 14th, 1900, Copland was writing short
piano pieces by the age of twelve. After graduating from high school
he continued his studies in piano, composition and theory for three
years before going to France to study under Nadia Boulanger. His early
works, "Grohg" and "Music for the Theatre" were influenced by jazz and
the cityscapes of New York. During the Depression, Copland began to
experiment  with classical treatments of folk themes: "Billy The Kid",
a ballet about the infamous outlaw, was commissioned in 1938. "Billy"
was followed by another western ballet, "Rodeo" and an orchestral
piece, "Appalachian Spring". During this time he also composed music
for Irwin Shaw's play Quiet Other works include the postcard pieces,
"El Salon Mˇxico" and "Danzon Cubano", a clarinet concerto for Benny
Goodman, the full-length opera "The Tender Land", "Fanfare for the
Common Man", "Lincoln Portrait" for speaker and orchestra, "Old
American Songs" and "Symphony No. 3."

In the 1950's Copland returned to the more austere style of his youth
and experimented with the twelve-tone music popularized by Shoenberg.
He was active academically: he began the composition department at
Tanglewood and produced several essays and books on musical criticism.
He used his status to promote and find patrons for new American
composers and he was a frequent attendee at modern music festivals.

By the 1970's, Copland had largely retired from composing; his final
work, Proclamation (1982), was performed during a concert celebrating
his 85th birthday. He continued to conduct, especially his own popular
"American" works from the 1940's and 50's. Copland died in North
Tarrytown, NY December 2nd, 1990.

Who's Who