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Emily Grossman

Simple Gifts

October 28, 2008 at 10:51 AM

I first fell in love with Aaron Copland over an old tape player, lying on the green shag carpet in my upstairs bedroom. I’d stolen a tape from Daddy’s collection under the stereo, and from that point on, it belonged to me. Or should I say it owned me?--I don’t recall; we were completely enmeshed. It was my escape, my newfound deeper connection with life, love, beauty, and death.

From one single note, hope grew in small green shoots, pushing toward light from the thawed earth. From there, all of creation joined in the celebratory dance. It was all so terrifyingly beautiful, the tenuous hold that life keeps over death: in the dark shadows, unseen, death waited. But with all that death around, what better reason to celebrate being alive? Simple, I know, but nothing is more satisfying than to be grateful for such a gift as life.

I listened to it every day. I fell asleep there on the shag green carpet, dreaming that someday I could play it myself. I would play like that, that’s what. But instead, I played that tape until it broke, that’s what. I cried that day, and since I was afraid to tell my parents I’d broken a tape that I’d stolen, I hid it away and never found another copy. (If anyone happens to know where I could find a recording of the St. Paul chamber orchestra’s version, I’d love to have it again!)

Years passed, and eventually I’d all but forgotten about Appalachian Spring. Then, by twist of fate, the Anchorage Symphony added it to their October 2008 program. When I found out about it last spring, I just knew that something would prevent me from playing it. I didn’t even dare hope that I would live long enough to see the end of October. What happens after lifelong dreams are realised, anyway? Isn’t that the end of the movie? Do the credits roll? Everyone gets up and leaves the theater? I wasn’t sure.

But no, I showed up to rehearsal, business as usual, and we began to hash out the difficulties that come with Copland: counting, counting, and counting. It would have been easy to be so occupied by the working out of our parts that we’d neglect to see the forest for the trees. Copland made sure I wouldn’t forget, though. Without fail, the sounds would pull me from my efforts, and suddenly I’d become so overwhelmed I couldn’t see the music for the tears. Surely, I’d have to put an end to this emotional spillage before Saturday’s performance! Most of my rehearsal time, I’m ashamed to admit, was spent trying to keep myself pulled together.

Fortunately, a major portion of the music was given to only the front half of the section, so I could afford the luxury of sitting back to listen. In fact, the very last refrain worked out this way. We proclaimed our joy in unison, then I set my bow to rest in my lap while the rest continued to speak in devout, hushed tones. As I sat on the stage during those final notes, I got a distinct familiar feeling.

I don’t know, it was kind of like dying. But I’ve never died, so what do I know?

Some things, you just know.

From Stephen Pittman
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 1:09 PM
Apparently this was an Grammy award winning performace. These disks are going gfor a premium

From Dottie Case
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 2:24 PM
I love this piece. I played it twice last year with two different orchestras (two different results, too:). What an incredible piece. While I've never heard or read this in music history classes, I've always thought about how much I hear Dvorak's influence in Copland.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 4:22 PM
I especially like the quiet parts of it, like around rehearsal #67 in "Ballet for Martha." It's incredibly settling, peaceful, and with just that bit of aching beauty. Enjoy your week of playing this!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 5:04 PM
Nice story. : )
From Kelsey Z.
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 5:15 PM
I played Appalachian Spring last month, Emily!

I'm glad you got to play it! It's such a powerful piece of music! Especially that ending where it says "like a prayer" in the score. Ah! so many images running through my mind!!


From Paul G.
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 9:19 PM
You've learned three important arts

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 28, 2008 at 10:13 PM
four. Her cooking is renowned in Japan.
From E. Smith
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 1:36 AM
Emily is my favorite Republican. <3
From Kelsey Z.
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 3:16 AM
Her cooking is renowned in Japan? Can it be renowned Canada too? Please?!
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 4:06 AM
Five, her drawing is renowned in Canada:)
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 5:49 AM
E. Smith is my favorite socialist! ;)

So now I'm curious as to who's going to spread the wealth and buy me a ticket to Japan and Canada? It is my sincere belief that recipe trading, not stock market trading, is the best way to end world hunger and promote peace. (How's that for a campaign platform?) I'm electing George as my running mate, on account of his venison parmesan.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 7:17 AM
I love Appalachian Spring. I often play it at home while looking at a poster on my wall, a famous photograph by Elliott Porter which is one of a series called "Intimate Landscapes." It really does look like Appalachia in spring. I've been there and seen the real thing outdoors. Despite of all my efforts, I can not take a photograph anywhere near as pretty as Elliott Porter's. The visual portrait enhances the music as I play it. I never hear death in this piece of music. I hear a reason to go on living.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 9:47 AM
Life comes from death.
From Jerald Archer
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 10:31 AM
Emily, that is a truely and deeply profound statement that really got me. I just recently lost my elderly aunt and was thinking the same, considering how ill she was at the end. Blessings.
From Jerald Archer
Posted on October 29, 2008 at 10:35 AM
By the way, are the photos your own work that I see once in a while? Some of them would make excellent classical music CD covers. If they are yours, would you consider releasing them for that purpose? Thanks.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 30, 2008 at 5:33 AM
Jerald, I'm glad to hear your aunt is free from her pain now. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Email me about which photos you may be interested, and maybe I can help you out.

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