“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?

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