American Sound Case
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Still and Copland: “American Sound”
Nancy Slaughter
American Sounds
America has many different sounds and instruments that have made music in America what it is today. Many people are credited with making the sound of American music what it is. In my opinion, American music has come from many other nations music past. We are a nation of many different people from many different places, and we have blended and changed each others music to make it our own. But we have blended music so much there is a natural American sound to American music. In Stills Afro- American Symphony, and in Coplands Appalachian Spring, these sounds can be heard and enjoyed.

William Grant Still was an African American composer of classical music. He was the first African American to conduct a symphony orchestra. He also wrote over 150 compositions, and was the first African American to have a symphony he wrote performed by a leading orchestra, and many other major accomplishments. He is often referred to as “the Dean” of African American composers.

Afro American Symphony premiered in 1931 by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a symphonic piece for full orchestra, including Celeste, harp, and tenor banjo. It combines a traditional symphonic form with blues and rhythms that were characteristic of African American music of the time. Still wanted to believe that black culture could be incorporated into the classical Symphony form. With in my opinion he succeeded.

Aaron Copland was an American classical composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor. He is a well known composer, ballets including, Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Fanfare for the Common Man. But in my opinion, one of his best ballets he did was Appalachian Spring. He wrote all of these in the 1930s and 40s, and he was known as “the Dean of American Composers”.

Appalachian Spring premiered in 1944 by a thirteen-member orchestra, in Washington DC, with Martha Graham dancing in the lead role. The opening of the ballet changes harmonies as many of his works did. In 1972, Boosey & Hawkes published a version of the suite fusing the structure of the orchestral suite with the use of double string quartet, bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon, and piano. All three versions continue to be performed in full. In 1945, Copland was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his achievement.

In Appalachian Spring, the music goes slow to fast, reflecting how life progresses from childhood with peace and security to faster pace of love, marriage, children and work. Next comes the later years when you work is done, and you live in peace.

In Afro American Symphony, the music comes from the culture of the slaves in their lives and daily work. The sounds and music comes from

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American Sound And Nation Of Many Different People. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from