Dec 18, 2011

Composers Datebook for December 18, 2011



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Produced in association with the American Composers Forum

Sunday, December 18

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Copland's "Emblems"

In the section of his autobiography on the 1960s, Aaron Copland wrote: "I have often called myself a 'work-a-year' man . . . and 1964 belonged to the band piece 'Emblems.' Among the invitations I received to compose new pieces was one from clarinetist Keith Wilson, who was president of the College Band Directors National Association, for a work to be played at the organization's national convention. Wilson wrote, 'The purpose of this commission is to enrich the band repertory with music that is representative of the composer's best work, and not one written with all sorts of technical or practical limitations.'"

"I hesitated for a moment," continued Copland, "but accepted when I was told that the piece would be bought sight unseen by at least two hundred bands!"

"Emblems" premiered in Tempe, Arizona, on today's date in 1964, performed by the USC Band, conducted by William Schaefer. Here's how Copland explained the work's title: "An emblem stands for something . . . I called this work 'Emblems' because it seemed to me to suggest musical states of being: noble or aspirational feelings, playful or spirited feelings."

Close listeners may hear harmonic echoes of the spiritual, "Amazing Grace," in the slow opening and close of "Emblems." Copland said, "Curiously, the harmonies had been conceived without reference to that tune. It was only by chance that I realized a connection between my harmonies and 'Amazing Grace!'"

Music Played on Today's Program:

Aaron Copland (1900 - 1990)
Emblems
U.S. Marine Band
Lt. Col. Michael J. Colburn, cond.
Naxos CD # 8. 570243

Additional Information:

On Copland
More CBDNA commissions

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Composers Datebook is a daily program about composers of the past and present, hosted by John Zech.

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