The Aaron Copland Collection ca. 1900-1990

About This Collection


Aaron Copland devoted his life as a twentieth-century composer to fostering, developing, creating, and establishing distinctive "American" music. He became known as the "Dean of American Music," a sobriquet with which he was uncomfortable. His name is synonymous with Appalachian Spring —the winner of the 1945 Pulitzer Prize in Music—and Fanfare for the Common Man.

Copland extensively documented the many facets of his life in music, and the Aaron Copland Collection at the Library of Congress reflects the entire breadth of his endeavors. Beginning in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, Copland periodically deposited his original music manuscripts at the Library of Congress and subsequently converted them to gifts. In the fall of 1989, he donated all his papers to the Library. The collection numbers approximately four hundred thousand items, dating from 1910 to 1990 with a few nineteenth-century photographs, and includes his music manuscripts, printed music, personal and business correspondence, diaries and writings, photographic materials, awards, honorary degrees, programs, and other biographical materials. It is the primary resource for research on Aaron Copland and a major resource for the study of musical life in twentieth-century America generally, particularly from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The online Aaron Copland Collection comprises approximately one thousand items selected from Copland's music sketches, correspondence, writings, and photographs. The items are represented in about five thousand digitized images, the earliest an 1899 photograph and the latest a 1986 letter. While the original collection contains almost all Copland's music manuscripts and printed scores, the online collection presents the original music sketches that Copland used in composing thirty-one works spanning the years 1924 to 1967 and covering every medium in which he composed: orchestral, ballet, opera, film, chamber, solo piano, and vocal music.

The correspondence in the online collection comprises images of approximately eight hundred letters, postcards, and telegrams from Copland that have been selected from the Aaron Copland Collection and other collections in the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Besides letters to his parents and other family members in the 1920s and 30s, the correspondence includes Copland's letters to his Parisian teacher Nadia Boulanger, the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, and others such as Nicolas Slonimsky, Roger Sessions, Carlos Chávez, Walter Piston, Leonard Bernstein, and Benjamin Britten.

As an advocate and supporter of American music and American composers, Copland frequently wrote articles, presented lectures, and delivered speeches. The online Aaron Copland Collection presents eighty-six of Copland's previously unpublished drafts. These show the creative process through which he wrote about his own music, other composers and their music, and other people who played important roles in his musical life.

Of the twelve thousand photographic materials in the Library's Aaron Copland Collection, 111 items have been chosen for online presentation. Many were created by Copland's friend Victor Kraft, a professional photographer. They include portraits of Aaron Copland at various ages and places, with family members, with other composers, and with other people associated with his career as a composer and conductor, as well as images from his worldwide travels.