Four American Styles: Jazz & Spirituals

Much American music was derived from folksong, the traditional music of the Indians, and hymns. But the most sensational manifestations of national music were jazz and Negro spirituals, which found their way into Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928); Copland’s Music for the Theatre (1925), and Leonard Bernstein’s Fancy Free (1944) and West Side Story (1957).

Social concerns in the 1930s induced Aaron Copland to popularise his language, resulting in a soundworld as quintessentially American as a Sousa march (The Washington Post, 1889) or a Stephen Foster song (My Old Kentucky Home, 1853). Copland’s ‘Americana’ period included the ballets Billy the Kid (1940), Rodeo (1942) and Appalachian Spring, written for the dancer Martha Graham. It was completed in 1944 for a chamber ensemble of 13 instruments. But later, Copland extracted a suite from the work and expanded its orchestration to full orchestra.

Classic CD magazine, 1995

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1 Response to “Four American Styles: Jazz & Spirituals”


  1. 1 manchesterflickchick October 2, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    i have always wondered what this piece of music is! I’ve never heard it all of the way through before and didn’t realise it had so many wonderful changes of tempo. Thank you.


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