The Saga of the Prairies

Beth E. Levy

in Frontier Figures

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780520267763
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520952027 | DOI:
The Saga of the Prairies

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This chapter examines the process by which Aaron Copland's westernness replaced his more contentious leftism, overshadowed his overt engagement with African American musical materials, and won nationwide popularity for a composer who might otherwise have been marginalized based on his Russian–Jewish heritage or his homosexuality. The conjunction of whiteness, masculinity, and the West that was so significant a part of Harris's appeal had different but still powerful implications for Copland. The aggressive heroes and rugged landscapes of the West helped balance (veiled) allusions to his homosexual preferences, deflecting interest away from his Jewish, cosmopolitan background and focusing it on an Anglo, western mythology that was rapidly becoming a favorite arena for representations of American identity in the mass media.

Keywords: American music; composers; Aaron Copland; Russian Jews; American West; homosexuality

Chapter.  8836 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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