Copland and Perry

The day began with one of my lefty Facebook friends raving about Rick Perry’s TV ad using Aaron Copland’s music. I hadn’t heard the ad, so I played it there as it was set out. Now I read Tom Jackson, linking the ad and noting that the music is NOT Copland. And indeed, it isn’t. Not only is it not any Copland piece that I know, but the woodwind writing doesn’t ring true; it’s too dense and solid. It’s certainly Copland-LIKE. But so is most of John Williams, just to mention the most famous miner of that lode. When you’re the Iconic American Composer, you set the style for icons. And that style has become the musical shorthand for “wide open spaces good old-time America”.

It was apparently an Alex Ross tweet that got the whole Perry/Copland meme going. Now, there’s less than no love lost between Ross and Perry; I’m a Ron Paul guy myself so I really don’t give a shit one way or another (especially as I’m not much motivated by gay issues). So yea, it was a deliberate attempt to make Perry look bad (as opposed to a passing cultural observation.) But then, the standard musical formula for love scenes in an earlier movie era was to use fake Tchaikovsky…who was of course queerer than a $3 bill. Yes, passion is passion (like “a mouth is a mouth”), but if we’re going to read things into films, based on the back story of composers who inspired film music composers, just what does that signify? If one is responsible for taking into account the sexual preferences of the inspirations on one’s media employees, then what was Perry’s team to do? I suppose that they could use fake Charles Ives, who had pretty impeccable gay-averse credentials (I don’t use the term “homophobic” because such people generally do not fear gays…though considering how many gays are  into physical culture, perhaps they should .),  but polytonality doesn’t suggest “E pluribus unum” and conservative politics to the average listener…. not to mention that Ives’ source material was diversity-deprived, being very Christian, and very WASP, and hasn’t been on the hit charts since 1898 at the latest. Which may, now that I think of it, might be an advantage to Perry.

The irony is probably lost on Perry’s target audience, who, if they noticed the music at all, probably thought it sounded like “movie music…John Williams… the score from The Patriot“, in order of specificity. I’ve never seen Brokeback Mountain, but I have to wonder now if there are Coplandisms there, and what they mean.  This friend-on-a-friend stuff is weak tea… which may be why the Internet insisted on amping it up to real Copland.

4 Responses to Copland and Perry

  1. […] Cleveland area composer Jeffrey Quick weighs in. […]

  2. jacksontom says:

    Liked the post, but had trouble figuring out which composer would be appropriate for a Ron Paul commercial. Maybe a bit of John Adams’ “Christian Zeal and Activity,” minus the “sound found object”?

  3. kishnevi says:

    Never seen Brokeback either (not because it’s Brokeback, but because it’s a movie–most recent movie I’ve seen still remains Lord of the Rings), but I would suspect there would be Coplandisms, if only because of Billy the Kid and Rodeo. That, or references to the scores of Stagecoach, Sierra Madre and all the other classic Westerns.

    I suppose they could have used Barber or Menotti–oh, wait….

  4. Jeffrey Quick says:

    Copland was fairly closeted. If they’d used del Tredici or Rorem, that could be interesting. I don’t know (and should) if movies are a grand rights or a compulsory mechanical license thing.

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