Manuscripts/Mixed Material Letter from Aaron Copland to Arthur Berger, September 8, 1944.
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Sept. 8, 1944
Theres no particular point to this letter -- only a sort of blind instinct that if I can elicit a letter from you I can thereby keep in touch with the musical center of the world. Tepoztlan is definitely off the main road. In fact its about 400 years behind the procession. I doubt whether they ever heard of Schostie, as Harold would say. And even if they heard of him, I doubt whether they'd care.
I found out most about the place by reading a book about it, written by an American, of course. He spent 8 months here 15 years ago, before the road was opened. You can't find out much from the Indians themselves, they're so tight-lipped. The Mexico City Mexicans say they are unfriendly, but I suspect they are just shy. In any case my presence here is remarkable only because no American has lived here since Redfield wrote his book.
I imagine life here is closest to Italian hill town life, or what I suppose Italian hill towns are like. No newspapers and no radios, not telephones and no telegrams. That simplifies life considerably. Theres no traffic because the streets are unpaved. A kind of pitter-patter of bare feet on rock can be heard all day through. Its the women on their daily round. The men wear guaraches, but then they only work in the fields, and are mostly not to be seen until around 5 in the afternoon, when they emerge to make conversation with their friends on the corner of their street. Nights are dark -- there's no electricity. In spite of that, twice weekly there is a kind of public dance that takes place in the open air market. Its the only modern touch in town -- and I can't say it's very gay. Instead of doing jarabes and huapangos I was amazed to see them attempting a kind of Tepoztlan version of a fox trot. The nearest movie house is 15 miles away, but obviously its had its effect. The "jazz" is better than the dancing -- perhaps because Redfield mentions phonographs with horns when he was here. But the whole thing is hardly conducive to inspiring a Salon Tepozteco.
I don't suppose you're interested in any of this, but at least it tells you where I am. Esther will be relieved to know that our house is quite perfect -- complete with cook and gardener, and a bathroom. I have a separate studio with a baby grand. Unfortunately the old days are gone when you used to pay $8. a month for the whole thing -- but then, you can't have everything.
We are only two hours from Mexico City so I have heard the Sinfonica several times. Chavez played a piece of Revueltas called Ventanas (Windows). Its very amusing to listen to -- chuck full of orchestral color -- but the form isn't very good, I'm afraid. He was like a modern painter who throws marvellous daubs of color on canvas that practically takes your eye out, but it doesn't add up. Too bad -- because he was a gifted guy. Also heard a Symphony No. 1 by young Pablo Moncayo. He adds a gentle note to what is generally the grim or boisterous Mexican palette, but the whole thing is still rather unformed, despite charming moments. I am disturb[ed to] note that there doesn't seem to be any youngest generation of [Mex-]ican composers -- fellows in their twenties, I mean. Galindo and Moncayo are the thirty generation. I spoke to Chavez about it, b[ut] he doesn't seem to have any explanation. It may be the lack of [an?] outstanding composition teacher -- nobody who teaches really seems to know his stuff. Chavez and Revueltas went abroad and the young men stay home. Something ought to be done about it.
What goes on where you are -- thats really the point of this letter. I feel as if I had been gone for ages, and everything has changed. Of course it hasn't, but I need reassuring. Kalodin isn't back from the wars, is he? Have you been composing anything? Has anybody been composing anything? I wrote a seven minute piece for Whiteman's commission called "Letter from Home." Its very sentimental, with five saxophones that are sometimes five clarinets and sometimes four flutes -- but it modulates!
Now all I have to do is to take care of the Koussie commission.
Love to Esther from me and Victor.
PS. Wild coincidence. Just came back from the P.O. and foun[d] a letter including the two I sent you in 1934 and 1943. Very amused to reread them. Now I see why I wrote you -- trying to [get?] printed, thats all!