I gained the ledge

Laura Jacobs

  • Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ by Annegret Fauser
    Oxford, 144 pp, £10.99, November 2017, ISBN 978 0 19 064687 5

‘It seems that I have written miles of words,’ the choreographer Martha Graham wrote to the composer Aaron Copland in 1943. ‘But that is the way I work … to make a skeleton and then to be ready and willing to change when the music comes. The story is not so important … as the inner life that emerges as the medium takes hold.’ Copland had already written two ballet scores: Billy the Kid for Ballet Caravan in 1938 and Rodeo for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1942. But this new score, commissioned by the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in July 1942, was not for a ballet company but for Graham, America’s high priestess of modern dance. The ‘inner life’ that emerged was complex. The dance, a tribute to land and liberty, faith and fervour, had the look of a nativity play, but the newborn was America. Copland called his score ‘Ballet for Martha’; by the time it opened on 30 October 1944, Graham had given it the title Appalachian Spring.

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