Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Manifest Destiny

I’m currently reading An Indigenous People’s History of the US by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and one of the main takeaways is that settler-colonialism is an ongoing process, not a relic from our past. The conflict over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which infringes on the sovereignty of Indians in the Standing Rock reservation and threatens their water supply, demonstrates that fact dramatically. And as families all over the country sat down to commemorate a holiday celebrating a fantasy of Pilgrim-Indian collaboration, the world was stunned by the spectacle of non-violent protesters being brutally repressed with tear gas, rubber bullets, dogs, concussion grenades, batons, and water cannons in subzero temperatures. The ideology of Manifest Destiny has to go. The problem is – what to do we do about all of the groundbreaking, masterful works of art that served to justify, celebrate or shape this genocidal ideology?

I’ve loved Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland’s landmark Pulitzer-Prize winning ballet, for years. It’s an extremely influential and popular piece, and its impact can be felt in popular film scores, classic and modern, from Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird to Thomas Newman’s Little Women, and especially John Williams’ Lincoln. I was planning on posting an analysis of Appalachian Spring this month when my growing awareness of the #NoDAPL Movement prompted me to think about the piece in a completely different way.

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Analysis (Part 1/2): “Sonatine M.40, 2. Movement de menuet” by Maurice Ravel

This piece of music has long been one of my absolute favorites. From the first sparkling, crystalline chords, this short movement from Ravel’s “Sonatine” seems to cast a magical spell that lasts until the last clanging bell tones of the coda fade into silence. Here’s my analysis of the first half of the score, but I have to admit that ultimately there’s no way to intellectually explain why the piece is so emotional for me.

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October ’16 Mixtape

 

  1. Electric Counterpoint – Fast (movement 3) / Steve Reich, Pat Metheny
  2. Bolivia / Jorge Drexler
  3. Pipornithology, Pt. II / Chassol
  4. I Thought It Was You / Herbie Hancock
  5. Backlash Blues / Nina Simone
  6. Sonho Meu / Maria Bethânia & Gal Costa
  7. Something About Us / Daft Punk
  8. In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country / Boards of Canada
  9. Partita for 8 Singers: No. 2. Sarabande / Caroline Shaw, Roomful of Teeth
  10. I Should Care / Thelonious Monk