The Aaron Copland Collection ca. 1900-1990

About This Collection

The Copland Sketches

 Browse list of music sketches

This online collection contains approximately 2500 pages of Aaron Copland's sketches for his music, representing thirty-one of his works—thirty-three if one includes the Sextet and the Orchestra Variations, covered by the sketches for the Short Symphony and Piano Variations respectively. Representing many of Copland's best-known and most significant works, the sketches are often revelatory. Except for some miscellaneous accompanying material, the online collection includes all the sketches for the works in the online collection.

There are works for which the Library of Congress's archival Copland Collection contains no sketches. These include some of the early works and the Lincoln Portrait. Those who are interested in finding out whether the Library has sketches for a particular work not represented in the online collection, or curious about whether one of the works included has any material not presented online, should consult the Copland Collection Finding Aid.

Within the sections of the online collection, the sketches are presented as much as possible in the order in which they were received from Aaron Copland or his estate. They have been much used by scholars, and they represent Copland's not always systematic use of music-paper. Some sets of sketches have been numbered by stamp at their top left- or right-hand corner; this numeration was done by the Library of Congress when the sketches were filmed in the mid-1970s and do not represent Copland's numbering. When two separate sets of sketches exist for a single work, they are presented here as two separate items. (Note: The page numbers of some of these sketches may not appear in numerical order online. However, they are presented here in exactly the order that Copland produced them.)

The sketches reveal to scholars the history of Copland's work on the compositions, but they can also mean something to the general reader. The sketches for the Piano Variations, the Short Symphony, and the Fanfare for the Common Man show Copland searching for titles to do justice to three of his most characteristic works; the sketches for Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson show him deciding what poems to include in the cycle; the sketches for Billy the Kid show that the opening music was first intended to be the start of Music for Radio — which now begins with much more complex music.