Copland - Rodeo

Copland is regarded as a pioneering figure in American music. While studying in Paris in 1920s was influenced by teaching of Nadia Boulanger, Stravinskian neo-classicism, popular music, and developing European nationalist composing traditions. Upon return to USA, his modernism and use of jazz gave him a reputation as an enfant terrible. In the 1930s and 40s he established a characteristically American vernacular style, employing simple harmonies, folk melodies, and lucid orchestration ^ Public appeal through such pieces as Fanfare for the Common Man and Old American Songs. Radical late works from 1960s such as Connotations and Inscape adopt an individualised 12-tone idiom. As conductor and educator worked tirelessly to promote other composers, at Harvard, Tanglewood, on radio and television ^ Copland centenary falls in 2000.

Rodeo tells the story of a young cowgirl who has always been a tomboy. With her sudden awareness of the opposite sex, she attempts to attract the attention of the Head Wrangler and the Champion Roper. Her prowess as a rider does not impress the m, and when they ride off after ignoring her exhibition she is left behind in tears. A group of girls from the city in pretty dresses arrives at the invitation of the Rancher's daughter. They are an instant success with the men, much to the angry dismay of the cowgirl, still dressed in dungarees and riding boots. She rushes from the scene, to return in the middle of the Saturday Night Dance in a party dress. Her transformation brings all the men to her side and she triumphantly accepts the Roper as her partner.(Butterworth, 91-92)

The introduction to the first Episode, 'Buckaroo Holiday', uses syncopation and brittle orchestration more reminiscent of El Salon Mexico than Billy the Kid. But like Billy the Kid, Rodeo incorporates folk-songs not quoted literally but presented with Copland's personal treatment. The first, 'Sis Joe', is preceded by 23 bars of 'vamping'. The second folk-song, 'If he'd be a buckaroo by his trade', like 'Sis Joe', was taken from th e collection of tunes, Our Singing Country, compiled by John A. and Alan Lomax. This, too, has a simple rag-time accopaniment, humorously punctuated by empty bars. The treatment of the material also recalls the 'Jingo' movement of Statement s with a brusque, almost satirical, character that serves to poke masculine fun at the pathetic figure of the cowgirl.

The contrasting sadness of 'Corral Nocturne' serves to emphasise the isolation of the heroine in her rejection by the cowboys and her alienation from the city girls in their pretty dresses. Although the music conta ins no folk-song quotations, it evokes the mood of Copland's earlier pastoral episodes in Music for Radio, Billy the Kid, and Our Town.

'Saturday Night Waltz' begins with the string instruments testing their open strings in the way a fiddler tunes up. The Waltz itself is in slow tempo, with hints of the song 'Goodbye Old Paint', almost an echo from Billy the Kid.

The final episode, 'Hoe Down', is based on 'Bonyparte', a tune Copland found in Traditional Music by Ira Ford, although, despite its American pedigree, it must have an origin in the Old World. A brief quote of 'McLeod's Reel' the jazzy treatment makes the whole movement distinctly American.(92-93)

©UCPO 2002-17, design by David Welchew