B.A. in Music Senior Capstone Projects

Document Type


Presentation Date

Spring 4-3-2021


In the midst of the second Red Scare, Aaron Copland, an American composer, came under fire for his supposed communist tendencies. Between the 1930s and 1950s, he joined the left-leaning populist Popular Front, composed a protest song, wrote Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man, traveled to South America, spoke at the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, and donated to communist leaning organizations such as the American-Soviet Musical Society. Due to Copland’s perceived personal communist leanings, Eisenhower’s Inaugural Concert Committee censored a performance of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait in 1953. HUAC (The House Committee on Un-American Activities) brought Copland to the committee and questioned him on his communist connections. Copland clearly denied any and all communist activities or affiliations. This raised the questions: what impact did the contemporary political climate have on Copland’s music? What actual ties did he have to communism? Does it matter? To answer these questions, I examined the primary sources in the Copland Collection at the Library of Congress, during the fall of 2019. In addition to selected secondary sources, I focused on the relevant letters, hearing records, and other materials contained in Box 427: the box on HUAC. In addition to the Performing Arts Reading Room Aaron Copland Collection, I utilized the Folklife Collection and their resources on Aaron Copland. I will conclude there is significant external evidence Copland associated with communists, but since Copland himself continuously denied the identity, it is difficult to conclude whether Copland was or was not in fact a communist. It is much easier to conclude that Copland was, at the very least, politically left-leaning, although his political beliefs held a secondary role to the musical style in his compositions.


Copland, communism, red scare, Lincoln Portrait, Fanfare for the Common Man, censorship, government


Dr. Yang

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