Aaron Copland used material from speeches and letters of Lincoln and quoted original songs of the period, including “On Springfield Mountain” and “Camptown Races.” Copland often incorporated American songs from various sources in his compositions. Camptown Races was created by Stephen Foster in the mid 1800s blackface minstrelsy genre which has left a lasting offensive and hurtful legacy.
How does considering this context help hold a mirror to modern society against the backdrop of Lincoln’s words 80 years after the fact?
How might this resonate differently for a listener who is or is not already aware of the history of “Camptown Races”?
Duke Ellington was a tireless pioneer of cross-genre ties between the jazz and classical symphonic worlds. He is quoted as saying "I don't believe in categories of any kind." His vast compositional output includes concertos, suites, tone poems, ballets, operas, film and show scores, a television musical, oratorios, ballads, blues, spirituals, short instrumental solos, and arrangements of other composer's works. Consider this array of choices and his skill and achievement as a composer.
Why do you think so few of his symphonic works are regularly programmed in American concert halls?
Both Lincoln Portrait and Three Black Kings are music brimming with history and pride, and what we consider to be “American” sounding music.
In what ways do Aaron Copland and Duke Ellington convey these ideas musically?
How are their choices similar? Different?
As you listen, what seems eminently familiar to you about their music?