About this Collection | Aaron Copland Collection – Library of Congress

Aaron copeland

The first version of the online collection contains about 1,000 items, producing a total of about 5,000 images. These items date from 1899 to 1981, mostly from the 1920s to the 1950s, and were selected from Copland’s musical sketches, correspondence, writings, and photographs.

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990), the Aaron Copland Multi-Format Collection, from which the online collection is derived, spans the years 1910-1990 and includes approximately 400,000 items documenting the multifaceted life of an extraordinary person who was a composer, performer, teacher, writer, conductor, commentator and administrator. includes manuscript and printed music, personal and business correspondence, journals, writings, scrapbooks, programs, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, awards, books, sound recordings, and films.


Aaron Copland dedicated his life as a 20th-century composer to promoting, developing, creating, and establishing distinctive “American” music. he became known as the “dean of American music,” a nickname he was uncomfortable with. His name is synonymous with Appalachian spring—winner of the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for music—and fanfare for the common man.

copland extensively documented the many facets of his life in music, and the aaron copland collection at the library of congress reflects the full breadth of his efforts. Beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Copland periodically deposited his original music manuscripts with the Library of Congress, subsequently turning them into gifts. in the fall of 1989, he donated all of his papers to the library. The collection has approximately four hundred thousand items, dating from 1910 to 1990 with some photographs from the 19th century, and includes his musical manuscripts, printed music, personal and business correspondence, diaries and writings, photographic material, awards, honorary degrees, programs, and other biographical materials. It is the leading resource for research on Aaron Copland and an important resource for the study of musical life in 20th-century America in general, particularly from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Aaron Copland’s online collection comprises approximately 1,000 items selected from Copland’s musical sketches, correspondence, writings, and photographs. The items are represented in some five thousand digitized images, the first a photograph from 1899 and the last a letter from 1986. While the original collection contains nearly all of Copland’s musical manuscripts and printed sheet music, the online collection features the musical sketches originals that copland used to compose thirty-one works spanning the years 1924 to 1967 and covering all media in which he composed: orchestral, ballet, opera, film, chamber, piano solo, and vocal music.

The correspondence in the online collection comprises images of approximately eight hundred letters, postcards, and telegrams from Copland that have been selected from the Aaron Copland Collection and other collections in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. In addition to letters to his parents and other relatives in the 1920s and 1930s, the correspondence includes Copland’s letters to his Parisian teacher Nadia Boulanger, conductor Serge Koussevitzky, and others such as Nicolas Slonimsky, Roger Sessions, Carlos Chávez, Walter piston, leonard bernstein and benjamin britten.

As an advocate and supporter of American music and American composers, Copland frequently wrote articles, presented lectures, and made speeches. The Aaron Copland Online Collection features eighty-six previously unpublished drafts of Copland. these show the creative process through which he wrote about his own music, other composers and his music, and other people who played important roles in his musical life.

Of the twelve thousand photographic materials in the library’s aaron copland collection, 111 items have been chosen for online presentation. Many were created by Copland’s friend Victor Kraft, a professional photographer. They include portraits of Aaron Copland at various ages and places, with family members, with other composers, and with others associated with his career as a composer and conductor, as well as images from his travels around the world.

the copland cards

“The man is in the lyrics,” said Vivian Perlis of Aaron Copland, whose autobiography she helped write. The Aaron Copland Online Collection contains digitized images of over eight hundred of Aaron Copland’s letters, postcards, and telegrams spanning the years 1921 to 1986. Searchable text for all letters, postcards, and telegrams published in the collection are also available .

The letters reproduced in the collection represent, but are not exhaustive of, the holdings of Copland’s correspondence in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. in general they constitute significant readings of cards to important people in the life of copland. (copyright and volume issues prevent letters to copland from being available online). a part of copland’s voluminous and mostly related business correspondence with the former head of the music division.

These lyrics come from many collections in the music division. in addition to material from the aaron copland collection, they contain material from the leonard bernstein collection, the elizabeth sprague coolidge collection, the jacobo ficher collection, the irving fine collection, the louis kaufman collection, the serge koussevitzky collection, the modern music archives, the the walter collection the piston collection, the nicolas slonimsky collection, the william strickland collection, and the papers of the joint army-navy committee on welfare and recreation, subcommittee on music.

The letters copland wrote and found in the copland collection proper came to mind in various ways. he inherited his letters to his parents after his death. In the 1970s, when he began to think about writing his autobiography, he asked several of his friends and colleagues to send him photocopies of his letters. some responded with photocopies, others by returning the letters themselves. some responded with many letters, others with just a few.

copland rarely made carbon copies of his outgoing correspondence. The few periods of his life for which the Copland collection is rich in carbon copies are the brief intervals in which he had a secretary: in 1943 while working on the film The North Star; during his South American tour in 1947; in the fall of 1958, when she was in london and, presumably, his publisher, boosey & amp; Hawkish because they were obviously dictated to a secretary, these letters have the flavor of Copland’s post-1940 correspondence, but are not particularly scathing, lacking the distinctive qualities that emerged when Copland himself sat down to write. /p>

The following people are the main correspondents represented in the letters portion of this online collection. they are listed with the source collection of the letters sent to them by copland or, in the case of material from copland’s own collection, with an indication of whether the letters are originals or photocopies.

arthur berger (copland collection; photocopy). the online collection contains a single letter to this author of the first copland study book; It is perhaps the most evocative of Copland’s letters describing his visits to Mexico.

leonard bernstein (bernstein collection). Copland’s protégé in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Bernstein became one of the leading champions and performers of Copland music.

nadia boulanger (copland collection; originals). Copland’s primary teacher and mentor. Hers None of hers is dedicated to her.

paul bowles (copland collection; originals). composer and novelist. the two cards in the copland set appear to have been part of a voluminous and regular correspondence.

benjamin britten (copland collection; photocopies). English composer. the first set of old american songs was written for britten and his collaborator peter pears. Britten’s correspondence side is published in Donald Mitchell et al., eds., Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Journals of Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976 (2 vols., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

Carlos Chávez (copland collection; photocopies). Mexican composer; one of copland’s main composer friends. As a conductor, Chávez performed Copland’s Short Symphony when American conductors had declared it unplayable. The Chávez side of the correspondence and slightly abridged versions of Copland’s letters are published in Spanish translations in Gloria Carmona, ed., Epistolario selecto de Carlos Chávez (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1989).

israel citkowitz(copland collection; originals). Citkowitz was a slightly younger composer (1909-1974), gifted at singing and chamber music, in whom Copland had high hopes. the online set contains all the cards from copland to citkowitz in the copland set.

elizabeth sprague coolidge (coolidge collection). American patron of chamber music. she commissioned from copland (and therefore dedicated to him) the appalachian spring and the piano quartet.

jacobo ficher (ficher collection). Argentine composer. The letters Copland sent him document his interest in South American music.

irving and verna fine (irving fine collection). Irving Fine was a composer and younger colleague of Copland whose choral arrangements of several of Copland’s old Americana songs have brought them to life as choral works. copland shared homes with irving and verna fine for several summers in tanglewood. After Irving Fine’s death in 1962, Copland continued to support Verna Fine, and the letters he sent her retained their warmth and brilliance to the end of his writing years. Copland dedicated “Sleep Is Supposed To Be,” one of the two central songs in his Twelve Emily Dickinson Poems, to Irving Fine. The Irving Fine Collection also contains letters from Copland to Verna Fine’s mother, Florence Rudnick, in whose Boston apartment he initially holed up to write.

serge, natalie and olga koussevitzky (koussevitzky collection). Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony from 1924 to 1949, was the first performer to champion Copland’s music in America and continued to support Copland (and many other American composers) until his death. Copland, in turn, was a great help to Koussevitzky beginning in 1940 in running the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood. Copland’s letters to Koussevitzky’s first wife, Natalie, are mostly social; His letters to Koussevitzky’s second wife, Olga (Olga Naumoff, Koussevitzky’s secretary, until 1947), concern the operation of Tanglewood. copland’s third symphony is dedicated “to the memory of natalie koussevitzky”.

minna lederman (archives of modern music). Lederman was editor of the League of Composers magazine, Modern Music, which was published from 1924 to 1946. Copland was a major contributor to the magazine and a trusted advisor to Lederman.

marcelle de manziarly (copland collection; originals). French composer, student of boulanger. Copland dedicated “Sweetheart, We Will Forget”, the fifth of her twelve Emily Dickinson poems, to de Manziarly.

olga naumoff: see serge, natalie and olga koussevitzky.

walter’s piston (collection of pistons). American composer The Piston Correspondence Body is in the Boston Public Library; The lyrics in this online collection represent the small but important collection of piston letters from the years 1931-55 housed in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

florence rudnick: see irving and verna fine.

roger sessions (copland collection; photocopies) american composer; co-producer with copland of the copland-sessions concerts during the years 1928-31.

nicolas slonimsky (slonimsky collection; some early letters from the koussevitzky collection). music scholar. During most of the period in which Copland corresponded with him, he was Koussevitzky’s musical secretary; Joking letters to the incorrigibly humorous Slonimsky serve to balance Copland’s oh-so-serious letters to Koussevitzky himself.

harold spivacke (coolidge collection; joint army-navy committee on wellness and recreation, subcommittee on music). head of the music division of the library of congress, 1937-1972. Spivacke’s tact and unflappable composure kept the Appalachian Spring start-up on course.

william strickland (strickland collection). american driver. some of the letters in this online collection refer to the editorship of h. w. Gray Organ series, for which Copland wrote the episode for him.

“man is in letters”. So it might seem that a collection of more than eight hundred letters, postcards and telegrams from Aaron Copland would give a complete portrait of the man and the composer. however, users of this online collection should remember that these letters represent only the holdings of the Music Division of the Library of Congress. At least equally important are Copland’s letters to Virgil Thomson (at Yale University); Claire Reis and William Schuman (at the New York Public Library); Howard Clurman, David Diamond, and Walter Piston (at the Boston Public Library); and various others. Each of his copland correspondents shows a slightly different side of his personality, so the cards in this online collection provide a detailed, if not a complete self-portrait.

copland’s sketches

This online collection contains approximately 2,500 pages of Aaron Copland’s sketches for his music, representing thirty-one of his works, thirty-three if including the sextet and orchestra variations, covered by the symphony sketches. short and piano variations respectively. Depicting many of Copland’s best known and most significant works, the sketches are often revealing. With the exception of some miscellaneous supplementary material, the online collection includes all the sketches of the works in the online collection.

There are works for which the Library of Congress Copland Archival Collection does not contain sketches. these include some of the early work and the portrait of lincoln. those who are interested in finding out if the library has sketches for a particular work that is not represented in the online collection, or if they are curious if one of the included works has any material that has not been presented online , they should consult the search help for the copland collection.

Within the sections of the online collection, the sketches are presented to the extent possible in the order in which they were received from Aaron Copland or his estate. they have been widely used by scholars, and represent copland’s not always systematic use of musical paper. some sketch sets have been numbered with a stamp in the upper left or right corner; This numbering was done by the Library of Congress when the sketches were filmed in the mid-1970s and does not represent Copland’s numbering. where two separate sets of sketches exist for a single work, they are presented here as two separate items. (Note: the page numbers of some of these sketches may not appear in numerical order online. However, they are presented here in the exact order in which copland produced them.)

The sketches reveal to scholars the history of Copland’s work on the compositions, but they may also mean something to the general reader. Sketches for Piano Variations, Short Symphony, and Fanfare for the Common Man show Copland searching for titles that do justice to three of his most characteristic works; sketches for emily dickinson’s twelve poems show him deciding which poems to include in the cycle; billy the kid’s sketches show that the opening music was initially intended to be the beginning of music for the radio, which now begins with much more complex music.

copland’s photographs

The Library of Congress’s Aaron Copland Collection of Photographic Materials totals more than twelve thousand items spanning the years 1889 to 1985 and includes both black-and-white and color prints, contact sheets, 35mm negatives, color slides and photo albums. a large number of photographs were taken by copland’s lifelong friend, professional photographer victor kraft. Well-known photographers whose work can be found in the collection include Carl Van Vechten, Irving Penn, Gordon Parks, and Margaret Bourke-White. Subject material comprises an inclusive timeline of Copland’s life and includes the Copland family; copland himself throughout his life; friends; acquaintances; fellow songwriters and others he worked with; places where he studied, composed or visited; and special events.

From this vast collection, 111 photographs were initially selected for the online collection. Scanned images fall into five broad categories: family; copland alone; copland music; copland with other composers and people; and places and events. photographs that cannot be precisely or approximately dated have been given the designation “medium” or “late”.


Of the seven family photos, one is a formal session of Copland’s paternal grandparents and three of their children, while another shows Copland’s parents, Sarah and Harris Copland, in front of their department store in Brooklyn, New York, in 1922. The other five capture Copland with other members of the family.

aaron copland solo

Copland’s twenty-four photographs only show him both formally and informally and at ages ranging from six to seventy. Several feature Copland at his home, Rock Hill, in Courtlandt near Peekskill, New York.

the music of copland

Twenty-one photographs capture performances or rehearsals of thirteen musical works. the orchestral works performed are the piano concerto, in a photograph showing copland at the piano and andré previn conducting; the clarinet concerto with benny goodman as soloist and copland conducting the los angeles philharmonic; and Lincoln’s portrait in two essay photographs, one in color with Marian Anderson as a speaker and the other with Adlai Stevenson, both under the direction of Copland. The two ballets represented are scenes from the Appalachian Spring premiere performance at the Library of Congress and Billy the Kid, which was premiered by Lincoln Kirstein and the Ballet Caravan.

Three of the eight films for which copland wrote musical scores are illustrated in this online collection. production stills depict the north star and the red pony. There are also two candid photographs from the making of the red pony showing Copland with pony and child and a studio recording shot of Copland conducting the music for Something Wild showing star Carroll Baker on a television monitor. .

one chamber’s work is performed in a nonet essay at the library of congress with copland conducting. two photographs show william warfield with copland during rehearsals of old american songs. there is also a scenic shot of the opera la tierra tierna.

copland with other composers and people

numerous photographs capture copland with other composers, including leonard bernstein, carlos chavez, norman dello joio, samuel barber, gian carlo menotti, irving fine, arthur berger, douglas moore, benjamin britten, darius milhaud, philip ramey, walter piston , domingo santa cruz, virgil thomson, roger sessions and igor stravinsky. He is also shown with such notable cultural figures and musicians as Artur Rubinstein, Claire Booth Luce, Claire Adler, Nadia Boulanger, Victor Kraft, Vivian Perlis, Claire Reis, Jack Garfein, Thorton Wilder, Serge Koussevitzky, Agnes de Mille, and Oliver Smith.

places and events

places and events group of photos shows coplan fontainebleau and aldeburgh; in paris, germany, england, peru, israel and mexico; in nadia boulanger’s studio with other students; in the macdowell, yaddo and tanglewood colony; and at the University of Kansas, Brown University, and Columbia University.

copland’s writings

Aaron Copland was best known first as a composer and then, in the 1960s and 1970s, as a conductor. His name is less often associated with literary endeavors. Aaron Copland’s part of the collection’s writings suggests that perhaps his reputation should be reviewed in this regard: it includes a wide range of articles, lectures, speeches, book drafts, and radio and television commentary spanning the years 1925 to 1988. The stream of Copland’s literary endeavors began with an article written for publication in 1925, shortly after his return to the United States after three years in Paris, and continued through the late 1970s and early 1980s. that of 1980. he showed the same technique in his writings as in his music: that is, a frequent borrowing from himself in which he used the same material in different media.

The writings selected for this online collection comprise eighty-six articles. selections represent unpublished drafts of material for articles, lectures, and speeches. Some selections show Copland’s literary processes in careful revisions, word changes, rearrangements, and other editorial techniques. he typically began with handwritten notes or drafts and proceeded through several typewritten drafts before creating a final unmarked typewritten version. (example: “a visit to snape”, version 2 and version 3) however, not all literary works in the aaron copland collection illustrate this transformation. The lectures and speeches show another aspect of Copland’s literary endeavors: the fact that he underlined almost every word in red or blue pencil. Since he probably made these markings to help him deliver his speech, they recover some of the sound and thought of his vocal performances. they also add a colorful element to handwritten and typed drafts.

like many conductors, copland used a similar device in his conducting scores, where red and blue pencil marks call attention to changes in time signature, dynamics, and instrument cues. [example: “leonard bernstein talk”]

whatever their intended uses, online examples of copland’s previously unpublished writings can be grouped into four categories: autobiographical, about copland’s music, about other composers, and about other people.

the two autobiographical titles contrast the esoteric concerns of “music and the human spirit”, in which copland addresses “the creation of art music” as one of “the truly unique achievements of the humanity”. with the practicality of “the composer as conductor” in which he recalls that “some twenty years ago, during a memorable evening at the house of the stravinskys in los angeles, the venerable maestro turned to me and he told me in no uncertain terms: ‘darling, you should conduct your own music. All composers should conduct their own music!'”

Writings on copland’s music highlights eleven of copland’s compositions in five different media. Writings on two ballets describe his collaboration with Martha Graham (Appalachian Spring) and his work with Lincoln Kirstein on the story of Billy the Kid, (“On Billy the Kid” and “Notes on a Cowboy Ballet”). copland analyzes the creation of his three main works for solo piano, piano fantasy”, “piano sonata” and “piano variations”, in two different lectures under the title compositional phases [about my three works for piano]. “An article on the 1925 orchestral musical for the stage summarizes the reaction of the public, musicians and critics in the United States and Europe, including a performance by the New York Symphony Orchestra in which its conductor, Dr. walter damrosch, had “revenge at the end”. copland wrote a visit to snape to pay tribute to benjamin britten on his fiftieth birthday; in it, he exalts the “type of composer relationship ” between them and the “exchange of musical impressions ” between his own “the second hurricane ” and the piano concerto no. 1.

As a composer of various film scores, Copland was frequently asked to lecture or write on film scoring. In his discussions of the subject, Copland talks not only about his experiences and the scores he wrote, but also about other film composers and his work in Hollywood. In “Film Music,” a lecture delivered at the Museum of Modern Art Film Library in 1940, Copland briefly describes Hollywood and the mysterious nature of film music. he talks about the music he wrote for the movie Mice and Men; four film composers, Eric Korngold, Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, and Herbert Stoddard; and some of his soundtracks. When he gave the “Film Talk” lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1971, Copland’s credentials as a film composer included six feature films and two documentaries. On that occasion, excerpts from three feature films (Something Wild, The Red Pony and The Heiress) and a documentary (The City) were screened while he commented on how music can help a film and how a film is put to music.

The largest category of writing in this online collection focuses on Copland’s views on other composers. In these works, Copland speaks not only of his American contemporaries but also of Mozart (“in Mozart’s thought”), Berlioz (“Berlioz – from the composer’s point of view”), and Pierre Boulez; Russian composers and South American composers; michael tippett (“cousin michael”), darius milhaud, dmitri shostakovitch (“dmitri shostakovitch and the new simplicity”), gabriel fauré, franz liszt, gustav mahler (“mahler (20th century[ury]”) , igor stravinsky, serge prokofieff [sergey prokofiev] (“on the occasion of serge prokofieff’s 70th birthday”) , benjamin britten (“special love for b.b. [benjamin britten]”) , and zoltán kodály. copland was concerned above all for educating others about the composers and their music, and in these writings he sometimes presents his personal views and reflections. At the National Arts Club in 1968, for example, he spoke about the gifts of Leonard Bernstein and what he was like.” impossible to imagine the American music scene in the last quarter century without him.” [example: “lb”]

As Copland lived throughout the century, he was called upon to write celebratory epistles or obituaries about many of his contemporaries, whether they were composers or others who had influenced his life. these writings about other people offer copland’s portraits of her Parisian teacher, nadia boulanger (“introducing] n[adia] boulanger as a teacher”); her first theory teacher, rubin goldmark (“rubin goldmark: a tribute”); her editor, ralph hawkes ( “ralph hawkes: in memoriam “); her friend and colleague of hers in the songwriters league, claire reis; and her longtime supporter, Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitzky (“Serge Koussevitzky-The 100th Anniversary [Unpublished Writings]”). “Almost forty years have passed since I first rang the bell at Nadia Boulanger’s Paris apartment…” begins the 1960 tribute to her teacher, (“the teacher: Nadia Boulanger”), the person who he was most influential in shaping and shaping composer aaron copland.

Related Articles

Back to top button