Appalachian Spring

So I know we talked in class about ballet being a function of music, dance, performance, and expression of emotion and not a particular type of dance. However, THIS to me was a ballet. At least what I would personally consider a ballet when I think of what ballet is. The dancing was fluid and so attuned to the music. It was very clear who each of the characters were and where they were. The costumes really informed the story as well which was particularly important given that the set was so sparse. I also think that this ballet is MUCH more narrative than the Stravinsky piece which was much more ritualistic and didn’t have a clear plot. Overall I really enjoyed the Copland piece. I found the music to be really engaging on its own (the dance did not need to draw me in for me to enjoy it).

To the side to the side, everything you own in a box to the side AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I really enjoyed this song, and it definitely has a hypnotic rhythm. Just as with the Lux aeterna, I felt very emotionally moved. I’m not sure why i reacted this way, but I think it might have something to do with the a capella sound and the used of speech. Even though most of the lyrics are strings of nonsensical instructions, kind of like the nonsense titles my “indie” friends would title their paintings. But, I still think that it is trying to convey some deep mystical or emotional message. At parts I feel inspired, such as in the first movement, when the different voices would become homophonic and a gloriously rich and uplifting tone was produced. In fact, it reminds me of that Imogen Heap song (Hide and Seek?), where she has many autotuned voices, but they all come together at points to express intense emotions in parts of the song.

It seems mostly like an experiment of a capella voices, having so many melodies and rhythms that it’s hard to hear them all. But at the same time, they all seem to compliment each other, creating a myriad of rhythm and chord combination that harmonize cyclically, but randomly. The best example I can find of this is the Potter Puppet Pals video, where each muppet beats to their own rhythm, but when you combine then, you hear a complex regular interaction of rhythms, but none of these interactions really repeat.

Mood Music

When I first put on Lux aeterna, I started to get a bit bored, and I got distracted by Daily Mail. My point is that I automatically thought of this music as background music/noise, disappearing into some white noise nonsensical loop. Though this isn’t the first time I’ve been distracted, this was different because I had trouble finding much to engage in, there just wasn’t much “liveliness” and it felt lethargic. I think this is because there are very few satisfying cadences, and the sounds are ephemeral. In many of the recent pieces, the music is so erratic and deconstructive that each note seams like a cry for attention. However, this music is mellow and flowing. It sets a mood and it reminds me very much of horror/fantasy movie sound tracks. The music could be played during an eerie scene in the wilderness.

It also seems like a #throwback to the chants we heard at the very beginning. This has been the trend, with ensembles downsizing from large instrumented orchestras to chamber ensembles, to vocals with instrument accompaniment in the Pierrot Lunaire. Finally, we have a return to just vocal tones.

Appalachian Spring – Copland

“Appalachian Spring” by Copland projects visions of a harmonious and pastoral America. The music in this piece is often drawn out and slow, painting a soundscape of purity and a majestic quotidian experience. There seems to be a simplicity and order to this composition, The third part of this piece, at its beginning, picks up speed and enacts a form of festive dancing, which I appreciated. Other parts, such as the dance between the couple, are much more slow-paced, giving off an affect of gentleness.

There seems to be a ‘conservative’ nature to the dancing, which we did not find in Stravinsky’s piece, as here oftentimes there seems to be minimal motion as well as tenseness in the upper body, until the dance fragment develops and the bodies spread. This piece as well as its choreography evokes a slight feeling of stress/tension that I am unable to pinpoint completely, due to the prolonged nature of many of the pitches as well as the immobility of many of the dancers, who seem to adorn the stage and then later move in calculated manners.

Additionally, in this piece, the dance moves seem to often interestingly predict the music. Some examples of this would be at 3:20, where the women hop before the melody in the music depicts this. Another is at 2:10 and further, where dramatic body language is positioned a split second before accents in the music.

Appalachian Spring

It’s amazing that Aaron Copland had no title to his opus and was planning on releasing with the title Ballad for Martha because this work composed in 1944 embodied the mountaineer spirit and the natural appeal of the Appalachian pioneers in an incredible and instantly recognizable fashion today. Even without watching the video, the beautiful violin melodies, major key and upbeat melody give off  the images of nature, adventure and excitement that are common themes around the world. In fact, patriotic Chinese orchestra music carries much of the same aesthetic qualities of Appalachian Spring. What makes this piece unique is the choreography and the stage, which I cannot help but associate with The Sound of Music. It has the same child-like innocence and cheerfulness which warms the heart and should be a relaxing pleasure to listen to and watch for most people.

The Rite of Spring

What I found most interesting about the video we watched of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is that it was not at all what I expected when it comes to ballet. When I think of ballet I think of long extensions, grace, fluidity, and pointe shoes. It’s not necessarily slow or classical but it does have certain qualities, certain movements associated with it. Honestly the dancing in the video didn’t seem much like a ballet to me. Perhaps that is due to my limited exposure to the dance but I found The Rite of Spring to be very surprising. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I just found it unexpected.

Ending with the ritualistic dance especially was quite interested. However, I thought the ballet ended very abruptly and it left me unsatisfied. Perhaps it’s meant to leave you wanting more? The music seemed to be very cohesive in the second part up until the end when it became very abrupt and then just ended.

“Appalachian Spring” reminds me of the theme from Indiana Jones

Aaron Copland composed “Appalachian Spring” in 1944, on commission by Martha Graham, a legendary American dancer and choreographer.  When I began to listen to the second movement of Copland’s suite (“Allegro”), I realized that I recognized the tune because my youth symphony studied “Allegro” as part of a medley performance of Copland’s works when I was thirteen years old. I am now twenty years old, so I hadn’t heard the tune for seven years; however, I immediately remembered how difficult the composition was for me to perform on my viola. (“Allegro” has a very fast tempo that requires string instrumentalists to utilize an almost acrobatic speed and dexterity while performing the piece.)

Another thought came to mind as I was listening to “Appalachian Spring”: the suite sounds distinctly American in a cinematic way. In particular, “Allegro” (movement 2) and “Allegro: Solo Dance of the Bride” (movement 5) both sound like they belong in a Hollywood Western film from the 1950s—the fast tempo and rapid succession of notes makes me think of cowboys on horseback galloping over dusty Arizona terrain. “Appalachian Spring” sounds like a movie soundtrack—a forerunner to famous themes like those from “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars”. I wonder: did Copland invent this distinctly American/cinematic style? Is he the first? Or is Copland just one composer in a long tradition of symphonies like this?

Appalachian Spring – Copland

For the second ballet piece we see in class, Appalachian Spring was very interesting to watch. Compared to Stravinsky, the chaos has calmed down in the music while the relationship I wrote about in my previous post continues. However, to me the music takes a more secondary role in this production than the previous.

I must admit that the slower and simpler piece by Copland made it a captivating one. Few characters and minimalistic composing make it easy to follow, and easy to get caught up in. I would follow the story that is being performed and the music would take more of an accompanying quality than for Stravinsky, where either one (music or choreography) could have been considered principal. For Copland’s, the story unravels in a way that seems unrelated to the music, as if the music changed for the story. Additionally, the energy that is represented in the choreography also shadows the simple tunes. Most of the dancing involves charismatic movements accompanied by a huge smile, to which the music follows with slower and continuous play. When the music picks up it is still overshadowed by even more energetic choreography, and made me pay attention for story developments (e.g. ~4min in part 3). I guess what I am saying is that for Stravinsky I could use both parts to complement each other, for Appalachian Springs I mostly look at the music to comprehend the performance, but not the other way around.

Another point that I would briefly like to address as well is how the music created tension at points were the performance did not, and vice versa. For example, at 7min in the second part, the preacher(?) seems excited or eager to see something, but the music doesn’t convey it as I would’ve expected. This created some moments where I would question where the story was going, or what the characters were actually doing.


I was very excited to listen to Le Sacre du Printemp mostly because of its reputation to incite chaotic behavior. The over all impression I had of the piece was funky and off beat, but is it really riot material?

First of all, I think that it is worth noting that the Rite of Spring is accompanied by a ballet, and the both the music and the ballet were “avant-garde” for the time. That’s a loaded statement, but I think that means that it breaks all the boundaries of music before it (a running theme in the music we listen to). The chaotic and whimsical feel of the music is projected by even more chaotic and borderline abstract dancing, and they are intimately connected. In a way, this style is new and we’ve never really heard anything like it before. However, it still has many recognizable traits of music. After all, the ballet (and music) tells a story, and there is a plot that unfolds. It revolves around spring, and its mysticism. I think this makes it very similar to opera, which conveys also an epic plot involving mythology and a performance.

I guess to many people, the wild music and dancing can be hectic or primitive, but it has definite structure and character. Throughout the entirety of the piece, Stravinsky builds tension by using stamping chords with the horns and string instruments. But honestly I didn’t really think that the Rite of Spring is the most funky and different piece we’ve heard (that might always be reserved for the pierre lunaire).

Rite of Spring – Stravinsky

Having never been familiar with ballet in any form, I can’t say whether this is truly an odd piece or if it’s just me. The very introduction is oddly dissonant, but in a very intriguing way that captured my attention. It didn’t appear to me that there was an organization to it at first, but when the dancers appeared on stage I could see how it complemented the choreography.

The relationship between the composition and the choreography was unique. One helped understand the other, but they were still different and no clear, lasting relationship really develops. When the curtain rises, the dancers seem to begin with a very concrete representation of the music being played, and the music is almost acting as sound effects to what the dancers do. When continuous music plays they walk, a sudden crescendo and they jump, they coordinate their hand gestures to the music, etc. However, this does not occur forever, and at around 5:08 we see an example where the music does not convey what happens on stage: a few jumps that aren’t accompanied by music. Another example is the whole section around 7:30 where the music seems to play in an oscillating scale that does not match the choreography of the groups on stage.

After that first analysis I was very put off by how the two appeared to be related only periodically. This was until I arrived at 14:08 and realized that it merely transitions from congruent to similar. In this section everyone on stage is moving randomly and clearly off beat, but the music being played is one that transmits the same energy of chaos and entropy. Which brings me back to my first statement: the music itself exhibits feelings to the audience that relate to the choreography, and the choreography is performing actions that match the mood of the music, while each of them individually just does their own thing. Pretty cool if you ask me.