Copland counts to 12

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On today's date in 1967, Aaron Copland's final orchestra work, entitled "Inscape," was premiered by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during a pre-season concert tour by the orchestra. Copland said the work's title "Inscape" was borrowed from the 19th century English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Its compositional technique was borrowed from the serial or 12-tone models of Arnold Schoenberg and the some of the late works of one of Copland's favorite composers, Igor Stravinsky. Leonard Bernstein himself was no great fan of 12-tone music, but he exclaimed to Copland following the premiere, "Aaron, it's amazing how, even when you compose in a completely foreign idiom, the music STILL comes out sounding like you!" Beyond the technical challenge involved, "Inscapes," said Copland, reflected what he called "the tenseness of the times in which we live." Copland's experiments with 12-tone pieces like "Inscape" didn't impress the avant-garde composers of the day, and only baffled audiences who expected him to produce more works in the style of his popular ballet scores of the 1930s and 40s. By 1970, Copland decided to stop composing altogether, and claimed not to miss it very much. "I must have expressed myself sufficiently," he said.