Copland in the Mountains

I’ve been a busy girl getting ready for a rehearsal with my pianist, finishing learning the Gershwin Preludes (at the last possible second!) preparing the Prokofiev and finishing work on the Copland Sonata. Peter is flying to rehearse with me here and I’m forcing him to go on a small hike with my family practically the moment he gets off the airplane for inspiration. He’s not crazy about the Copland, and I’m on a mission to change his mind. Copland wrote his Violin Sonata at the same time he was writing, arguably, his most famous work, “Appalachian Spring” and there are rhythmic and intervallic motifs common to both works. Finishing the Sonata just months before the ballet, it’s almost as if the Sonata was Copland’s toolbox to explore ideas for the ballet—at least, that’s my intellectual argument. My most solid case though, comes in the form of a lake in the mountains, a glaciated volcano and a wildflower strewn mountain meadow …

I promise to write a proper full blog entry about Copland one day soon, but at the moment I’m racing to be ready for rehearsals and I’ve remembered a post I wrote on my old blog nearly ten years ago which very well captures my sentiments. I will republish it here in lieu of the full effort.

I don’t know how a guy from Brooklyn so perfectly captures the essence of the classical rugged western American sound we’d been searching for since MacDowell, but there’s a purity in his writing that’s clean and direct very like my rural upbringing. When I play Copland, I feel as if I’m speaking my native language. This is what it sounded like ten years ago:

My husband is in Arkansas, the wedding is over. I made it back in one piece after driving from Minnesota to Idaho and Idaho to Minnesota by myself (yes, I felt like an Amazon Princess General, by the way). The wedding was gorgeous. I totally enjoyed my sister's tropical wedding and was shocked the asiatic lillies and mokara orchids survived the night (unfortunately, I had to be more brutal with them than I normally like). My limbs are sore, beaten raw with painting, sewing, arranging, decorating, driving. My soul took the worst of it. It's in a silent state of atrophy brought on by little to no time for violin.

Today my calloused hands and tired eyes remind me of the beautiful America I saw while driving across Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho. I've changed my mind. I don't need to travel to a foreign country anymore. I love this country. America takes my breath away. Find me a little corner in the northeastern part of Montana, give me a stream, a tree and some dirt mixed with pine needles--wrap me in it and on a clear night let me swim in the stars. When I come down I'll be a Maple tree destined to become a violin that will sing her heart out about America, about the stars, about pine needles, painted deserts, caves, lava and Yellowstone.

For now, I'm home by myself with no husband to protest so I just finished watching two of the most estrogen-filled chic flicks I could get my hands on. I passed over my favorite movie (which combines both true love and English poetry--sure to evoke comatose for any self-respecting male) and went for the lighter, absolutely implausible, totally predictable fare. Something about a boy and a girl finally falling in love after hating each other the entire movie. Why does this entertain me?

It's the girl version of a quest. The conquesting female finds her power in overcoming hatred to win adoration. This is not a new concept. It's music--dissonance and resolution. As I watch in the darkness, surrounded by the promise of stars out my window, I am sure even my true love (my violin) can't be far around the corner.

Though I know dissonance of ever-increasing measure will ensue the moment I get my fingers around "La Capricieuse" or the fingered octaves in "Wedding Day," by the end of the day, we'll be in love again, and we'll ride up to the stars of northeastern Montana happily ever after.

While my sister rode off with prince charming, I drove through the sparse regions of America to be reunited with my true love. Tomorrow I'll have Bach back in my life again . . . I now pronounce myself a girl and her violin!

Kimberlee DrayComment