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Title:Aaron Copland's In the Beginning: context and creative process
Author(s):Fromm, Allison Wallis
Director of Research:Kinderman, William
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kinderman, William
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Solya, Andrea; Lund, Erik; Siena, Jerold
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Aaron Copland
In the Beginning
Book of Genesis
twentieth-century choral music
a cappella choral music
American choral music
sketches and drafts
compositional technique
creative process
genetic criticism
Jewish composers
Abstract:Sketches and drafts for In the Beginning (1947), Aaron Copland’s only extended choral work, illuminate relationships between the composer’s creative process and his Jewish heritage and humanist philosophy. Commissioned for Harvard University’s Symposium on Music Criticism, this setting of Genesis 1–2:7 was Copland’s reluctant response to Harvard’s request for an a cappella choral work on a text drawn from Hebrew literature. Although Copland’s upbringing was steeped in Jewish traditions and synagogue life, scholars have minimized the impact of his Judaism on his compositions, which avoided overt references to Jewish themes after the 1930s. This study offers a more nuanced appraisal, showing that In the Beginning encapsulates Copland’s expression of both Jewish and humanist ideals. Comparing Copland’s initial inspirations with his later revisions reveals his close reading and exegesis of the biblical text. This comparison also clarifies how Copland's free-flowing narrative style, melodic figuration, harmonic juxtapositions, and textural crescendo bring the work to a climax elevating the human soul. My genetic criticism draws on close examination of holographs in the Library of Congress’s Aaron Copland Collection, including sketches and drafts, marked conducting scores, lecture notes, and correspondence. An understanding of In the Beginning’s historical context is enriched by archival discoveries at Harvard and Yale Universities, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Kane Street Synagogue; and by interviews with individuals close to Copland in 1947 and in his later decades, including Lorna Cooke deVaron, Alice Parker, Marilyn Jaye, and Vivian Perlis. The intent of this dissertation is to shed light on Copland’s compositional techniques and philosophical perspectives, and to facilitate more compelling performances of In the Beginning.
Issue Date:2015-12-04
Rights Information:© Copyright 2015 by Allison W. Fromm. All rights reserved.
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-03-02
Date Deposited:2015-12

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