Monday, July 2, 2012

Music Monday: Copland's Rodeo

Each Monday, I share a piece of music I really enjoy. In honor of the holiday this week, I wanted to share something by an American composer. Unfortunately, though I hate to admit it, I'm not as familiar with American composers as I should be. A few names came to mind, mostly in the context of musical theatre -- Bernstein, Gershwin, Sondheim -- but after a little online searching to jog my memory, I decided to go with Aaron Copland's Rodeo.

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Rodeo (1942)

Now to be fair, I've never performed this (not knowing how to play an instrument kinda gets in the way of that), and it isn't something that was covered in any of the music history classes I took. But I was surprised to discover that Rodeo was originally a ballet. I wasn't so surprised by the fact itself, more by the fact that I didn't already know that. Copland later made some tweaks to the original score and re-released it as a concert suite: Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo. You'd think that name would have been a hint, but I guess I'd just never seen it printed on a program.

It's a fitting tribute to our nation's music, not only because it was written by an American composer, but also because Copland makes extensive use of folk melodies throughout the composition. He does quite a bit with them, but most of the recognizable melodies were originally folk songs, passed down through the generations by ordinary people.

The finale of both the ballet and the concert suite is an upbeat little diddy called "Hoe-Down." You may have heard this one before, or at least part of it. Remember the "Beef: it's what's for dinner" commercials from the 90's? In case you have no clue what I'm talking about, or if you want to refresh your memory, go have a quick listen. Catchy, huh?

So, why am I featuring a piece if I'm pretty sure most people have already heard it? Well, it's mostly because of something cool I came across while I was gathering information for this post. In fact, it's so cool, I can't even stand to spend an entire paragraph explaining how I found it, or why I decided to share it. I'll just let it speak for itself. (Skip ahead to 1:45ish if you don't want to watch the intro stuff.)

Isn't that awesome?! I love when more popular forms of music incorporate classical themes (not that jazz fusion is exactly mainstream, but still). Of course, because Copland used folk tunes in his work, this is more like popular music based on classical music based on popular music.

I just LOVE how universal music is!

Anyway, thanks for reading my latest Music Monday, my little way of sharing something I'm passionate about while introducing you to music you may be unfamiliar with. Let me know if you've enjoyed it, and let me know if there's something out there you think I should listen to.

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