Fanfare for the Common Man
Aaron Copland, Fanfare for the Common Man
How fitting that a citizen of a republic would write a piece of music as magnificent as this for common people. And why not? History is often the story of common men and women (that is: not royal, not rich) who made themselves uncommon—Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Galileo, Einstein, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Aaron Copland: all common people who made themselves uncommon, and, by doing so, changed the world and made it a better place.
While Copland may have had such uncommon commoners in mind, my guess is that he also meant to commemorate all those, good, who day by day make the world work with cheerful hearts and kind words, who lead honest lives, and who never ask for much, but who sometimes find love, moments to laugh in, good friends that inspire to courage.
"Each life has its place," Virginia Wolfe wrote. In his 1942 Fanfare for the Common Man, Copland honors lives that usually receive no honor. Copland wrote that he was inspired by vice president Henry A. Wallace's speech in which he proclaimed the dawning of the "Century of the Common Man."
Here is Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic (from the album Bernstein Century: Copland) in Fanfare for the Common Man:
The Encyclopedia Brittanica notes the following about the fanfare as a musical form:
Fanfare, originally a brief musical formula played on trumpets, horns, or similar “natural” instruments, sometimes accompanied by percussion, for signal purposes in battles, hunts, and court ceremonies. The term is of obscure derivation.
Bizét, Wagner, and Beethoven all wrote notable fanfares for their operas. The 20th-century American composer Joan Tower wrote Three Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman. I feel certain that Copland would not only approve, but wish that he had done it himself.
I created "Any More Beautiful than You," the image above, on my computer in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Carl Sandberg's poem "The Great Hunt":
I never knew any more beautiful than you:
I have hunted you under my thoughts,
I have broken down under the wind
And into the roses looking for you.