<< -- 2 -- David Thompson SIMPLE GIFTS?
Aside from the Editor's essential and lucid introduction, there
are fifteen articles in the book, plus two brief but revelatory transcripts
of interviews with Copland. The reviewer's difficulty can perhaps be
appreciated, detailed appraisal of every article being prohibitive. Since,
therefore, I must resort to a general overview with an occasional underlining
of what I found to be personal highlights, I would not, thereby, wish to
imply that the rest is less estimable. Far from it. Every article contributes
something vital to the whole, and the picture with which we are privileged
to be presented at the end of our reading.
The first section of the book serves usefully to place Copland within
the context of his life and the musical developments and influences which
were to contribute to the formation of his own unique voice. Thus Mark DeVoto
recounts Copland's encounter with the twentieth century's great
guru and musical midwife, Nadia Boulanger. Jazz and Dance are the subjects
of two further fertile aspects of Copland's experience, which receive
scholarly consideration from David Schiff and Marta Robertson respectively.
Jessica Burr celebrates Copland's achievement in being regarded in
his own country as the quintessentially 'Western' composer whose unlikely
roots lay in Jewish New York. This very brief study, tantalisingly understated,
of necessity, leaves us wanting more, and the material is ripe for expansion
into a book. For me, the highlight of this contextual section is Sally Bick's
'Copland on Hollywood', a consideration of an area that is often sidelined
or treated with less seriousness than is its due. We have to remember that
Copland was already in his late twenties when the sychronisation of sound
on film was introduced. He was therefore an exploratory pioneer of a genre
he did much to identify and define. Bick gives proper scholarly consideration
to this, and her presentation of the material is both welcome and justified,
especially as she writes with such clarity.
Copyright © 23 February 2003
David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK