Song Collection Fanfare for the Common Man

Image: Aaron
Copland Aaron Copland at Piano in His Studio, Ossining, New York. Victor Kraft, photographer, ca 1958. Music Division

"Fanfare for the Common Man" was certainly Copland's best known concert opener. He wrote it in response to a solicitation from Eugene Goosens for a musical tribute honoring those engaged in World War II. Goosens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, originally had in mind a fanfare "... for Soldiers, or for Airmen or Sailors" and planned to open his 1942 concert season with it.

Aaron Copland later wrote, "The challenge was to compose a traditional fanfare, direct and powerful, yet with a contemporary sound." To the ultimate delight of audiences Copland managed to weave musical complexity with popular style. He worked slowly and deliberately, however, and the piece was not ready until a full month after the proposed premier.

Image: Aaron Copland Aaron Copland on an American street, Ossining, New York (?), Victor Kraft, photographer (n.d.). Used by permission of Mrs. Victor Kraft. Music Division

To Goosens' surprise Copland titled the piece "Fanfare for the Common Man" (although his sketches show he also experimented with other titles such as "Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony" and "Fanfare for Four Freedoms"). Fortunately Goosens loved the work, despite his puzzlement over the title, and decided with Copland to preview it on March 12, 1943. As income taxes were to be paid on March 15 that year, they both felt it was an opportune moment to honor the common man. Copland later wrote, "Since that occasion, 'Fanfare' has been played by many and varied ensembles, ranging from the U.S. Air Force Band to the popular Emerson, Lake, and Palmer group ... I confess that I prefer 'Fanfare' in the original version, and I later used it in the final movement of my Third Symphony."

Aaron Copland, said the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, was the one to "lead American music out of the wilderness." Copland's musical opus, for which he received the 1964 Medal of Freedom, also included such masterworks as "Piano Variations" (1930), "El Salon Mexico" (1936), "Billy the Kid" (1938), "Fanfare for the Common Man" (1942), "Rodeo" (1942), "Appalachian Spring" (1944), and "Inscape" (1967).

Image: William Heck, a Cattleman William Heck, a Cattleman, and His Wife Making out Their Income Tax Form, Moreno Valley, New Mexico, John Collier, photographer, February 1943. Prints and Photographs Division

Taxes and the Common Man

In March 1943, income taxes were a major issue for the common man. The United States had been at war about fifteen months and government spending soared. The previous year, as other taxes rose, only one in seven taxpayers had managed to save enough from their wages to pay the federal government. Congress had just recently required employers to withhold an employee's estimated taxes; and from 1942 to 1943, collected federal taxes rose from $3.2 billion to $6.5 billion and by 1944, to $20 billion.

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Related Web Sites
Print Bibliography
  1. Buenker, John D. The income tax and the Progressive era. New York: Garland Pub., 1985. Call Number: HJ4652.B89 1985
  2. Butterworth, Neil. The music of Aaron Copland (with a preface by Andre Previn). New York: Universe Books, 1986. Call Number: ML410.C756 B9 1986
  3. Cincinnati Orchestra. Year book - Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. [Cincinnati]‚ Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. 1895-1974. Call Number: MT125.C6
  4. Copland, Aaron and Perlis, Vivan. Copland, 1900 through 1942. St. Martin’s/Marek, 1984. Call Number: ML410.C756 A3 1984
  5. Robertson, Marta and Armstrong, Robin. Aaron Copland: a guide to research. New York : Routledge, 2001. Call Number: ML134.C66 R63 2001
  6. Rosen, Carole. The Goossens: a musical century. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994. Call Number: ML385.R795 1994
  7. United States. Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States, Pt. 2. U.S. Government Printing Office, [1975], p. 1105. Call Number: HA202 .B87 1975
Format Web Pages
Contributors Library of Congress
Dates 2002
Location Washington
Washington D.C.
Subjects Article
Popular Songs of the Day
Songs and Music
Songs Collections
Fanfare for the Common Man
Created / Published
Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002.
Subject Headings
-  Popular Songs of the Day
-  Songs and Music
-  Songs Collections
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