This semester, I’ve been taking a class on nationalism in America. For this class, we have to write a research paper discussing any topic in American nationalism. Choosing a topic was slightly problematic as I’m sure you can imagine, but after taking a while and thinking about it, I decided on Aaron Copland. For those who don’t know who this is, you can listen to his most famous pieces, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Appalachian Spring. Before this paper, I knew that Copland was a popular American composer, but I have learned so much about him through this project.
Copland, like many other composers, began his musical career at a young age, starting lessons at 11 and deciding to become a composer at 15. At 21, in 1921, Copland made the decision to travel to France and study at a new university established to educate American musicians in European musical styles, Fontainebleau School of Music. Copland’s original intention was to study there for one year, but then he met Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger ended up being Copland’s teacher in France, and although he was hesitant to study with a woman, he ended up later noting that studying with Boulanger was the best decision he made in his life. At the same time, retreating to Paris were the “Lost Generation” of artists and writers from America who considered themselves to be expatriates and wanted to be anywhere but in America. How then, did Copland return to America in 1923 from the same environment and find himself more in love with American than ever before? This is the idea that I’m researching in my paper. Through reading Copland’s journals and writings from the time and later in his life, it’s clear how deep his love was for America.
Although history students and college students, in general, tend to complain about having to write research papers, having the opportunity to read the writings of people of the past and understand them on their own terms is one of the greatest privileges I have in life. This is why I love my major and love studying history. I get to do this for the rest of my life.