From Copland's FBI file. Click to enlarge.
A few days ago, I mentioned a musical irony undercutting an odious new TV ad by Rick Perry, the Texas governor and presidential aspirant. While Perry bemoans the fact that openly gay men and women are now allowed to serve in the American armed forces, the soundtrack gestures toward the "Americana" style of Aaron Copland, and in particular his immortal Appalachian Spring. You can see what I mean by comparing the ad itself — if anyone has moral qualms about accumulating hits for Gov. Perry, there is the option to vote "dislike," as more than half a million people have already done — to the opening and closing sections of Appalachian Spring. This observation is now making the rounds, although it's been somewhat distorted in the process: the music is not by Copland, although it certainly attempts to get close.
The irony is, of course, that Copland was gay, and tended strongly to the ideological left, as the above communication from J. Edgar Hoover suggests. In 1953, at the insistence of a Red-baiting congressman, his Lincoln Portrait was dropped from a concert celebrating Eisenhower's inaugural, and later that year the composer went before Joe McCarthy's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. As the decades passed, the cloud over Copland lifted, to the point where both Margaret Thatcher and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf felt free to serve as narrators for Lincoln Portrait. Whoever put together Perry's ad is hardly the first to appropriate Copland's style in questionable fashion, although I don't recall encountering it in an anti-gay context; that may be some kind of creepy innovation. In The Rest Is Noise, I noted that Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" campaign film in 1984 employed a Coplandesque score; after an excerpt from the book appeared in The New Yorker, the composer/arranger Alan Foust, who worked on the ad, wrote to me explaining how it came about. Since then, Coplandisms have been a cliché in campaign commercials from all points on the political spectrum.
See also: The Bernstein Files.
More: Ford and Nixon.