Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ballet for Martha

Copland may not have had the Appalachian mountains in mind when he wrote 'Martha's ballet' for Martha Graham (the name 'Appalachian Spring' was chosen after the piece had been written) but it is music very much rooted in the open spaces of America. At first seemingly melancholic, it is also uplifting and immensely moving. Yet the abiding impression is music which distills the essence of America. Whether it's the use of the Shaker melody, 'Simple Gifts', the hints of Copland's earlier piece, 'Fanfare for the Common Man', or the echoing sound of kettle drums used to mimic gun shots, I don't know but it's almost impossible to listen to it without imagining cow folk and the great plains of the Midwest.

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