Tuesday, September 16, 2008

putting El Salón in context

Speaking of politics in music, this week the CPO will be performing El Salón México by Aaron Copland -- a piece written in the early 1930's, during a phase Copland's career when he was actively promoting leftist and socialist ideals through his music.

Nowadays, the piece is most often programmed as a splashy, dancing burst of Latin color. That's how it fits into our program, which is titled "Tango Nights" and features several pieces by Piazzola, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and El Salón México. Until I read Alex Ross' new history of 20th-century music, The Rest is Noise, I wouldn't have noticed any deeper meaning to the work either. Ross puts El Salón into the context of the period, and explains the political intentions of its creator, in a way that sheds a fantastic light on this quirky, tuneful little piece.

I'd recommend The Rest is Noise to anyone who thinks they just don't get 20th century music -- who finds it confusing, intimidating, or exasperating -- or who just wants a deeper understanding of music like
El Salón, and how it relates to the political and social upheavals of our time. I guess that means I'd recommend it to just about everyone.

No comments: