Theoretical issues and presumptions in the early music of Aaron Copland

by Fishman, Leo Philip, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA, 2007, 198 pages; 3272823


To date, no one has provided an effective and reproducible system for analyzing the music of Aaron Copland. In point of fact, there has been a dearth of useful research concentrating on theoretical aspects of his music while there has been a great deal of work on contextualizing Copland as a way to explain his oeuvre. This dissertation provides a partial solution to the imbalance of research on Aaron Copland. Most of the scholarly material has concentrated on issues of identity such as Copland's identification with American Nationalism, Judaism, Communism, Populism, and homosexuality. Further, most of the research deals with Copland's compositions from the 1930s and later. I have chosen to concentrate on four early works, Music for the Theatre, Poet's Song, Vitebsk, and Symphonic Ode, all works written prior to 1930. In addition to providing a theoretical analysis of each work, I glean from those compositions five important theoretical principles that are applicable to Aaron Copland's entire repertoire. I describe his music in terms of the criticality of structural employment of consonance and dissonance, contrary motion, meter and rhythm, orchestration and the rhythmic motive. Additionally, this dissertation provides a tool one can use in analyzing Copland's music. I offer several rebuttable presumptions by which one can conclude certain musical conclusions unless significant evidence to the contrary appears. These presumptions refer to the five theoretical principles described in the document. I also suggest applying the presumptions when an analyst is describing other American music, other music written during the 1920s, and the remainder of Aaron Copland's music, regardless of when written.

AdviserPatricia Hall
Source TypeDissertation
Publication Number3272823

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