Comparison between Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland and The Rite Of Spring by Igor

Comparison between Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland and The Rite Of Spring by Igor


This paper presents an analysis if Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Igor Stravinsky The Rite Of Passage. To accomplish this, the essay will present some of the similarities as well as differences between the two pieces of music.

Appalachian spring by Aaron Copland and the rite of spring by Igor Stravinsky

Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky have been regarded as having being two of the greatest composers in the field of orchestra. In so many ways the two composers were similar and different in their compositions. Igor Stravinsky’s success as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and the most influential musical innovators of all-time has been regarded as  inspirational for countless musicians, key among them Aaron Copland. However, in equally many ways they were also different, beginning with their nationalities and certain aspects of their musical style. While Copland’s style has generally been likened to that of Igor Stravinsky many authors have agreed that Copland’s style owes a lot of its foundation to Stravinsky, even though the end results are quite different.

Igor Stravinsky’s’ The Rite Of Spring is credited as having been the composition that inaugurated music’s modern era. The piece disregarded 200 years of precepts in symphony and dance tradition, the piece although almost 100 years old, it remained an infamous radical piece of music. The pagan story, featuring polytonal music, the composition shocked the audience during its premier resulting to riots. It led Stravinsky to pursue rational, “neoclassical music.” The Rite Of Spring strives to blur the lines of rhythmic pulse, which is obvious in the section, “The Augurs Of Spring”, where the intonations are so displaced that it is difficult to decrypt in what meter the composition is written.

Appalachian Spring is Copland’s third ballet from his American period, the others being Billy the Kid and Rodeo. The musicalpiece is based on a story about the joys and anxieties of pioneer life. It echoes his characteristic American style, and its most prominent section, is the variations on the Shaker folk tune “Simple Gifts.”

The Rite Of Passage is so harmonical and rhythmically modern.  The music resonates not only with folkloric echoes but also, inevitably, with manifold reverberations of earlier Russian music for the stage. It manifests a bewildering originality and technical certainty. It has a minimum of false starts and detours: the most radical ideas are present from the start, if in cruder form, and the work seems to have proceeded with great assurance. This is contrasting and similar to Copland’s’ Appalachian Spring in two ways. Similar in that both have a folkal intonation in their performance, and contrasting, in the sense that while The Rite Of Passage borrows heavily from Russian cultural background, the Appalachian Spring bears Copland’s characteristic trademark American style.

Copland’s Appalachian Spring is a great study in orchestra. It is deceptively complex yet still approachable for a novice. The Appalachian Spring, retro at the time of its composition, is radical only in the sense that it is so tonal, simple and guileless, and flawless in the middle of anage when that style of writing was not the prevalent fashion or trend.The compositioniscandid, honest and harmonious. Instrumental lines are every so often doubled all through. This is in contrast with The Rite of Spring whichchallenges the audience with its chaotic percussive momentum.

The Rite of Spring was revolutionary in all its dimensions from the score, to the choreography and the costumes. Every facet is used to tell the story of tribal sacrifice, it’s not about beauty. The costumes hide the dancers’ body, the motions are the opposite of graceful, and the music is savage. It has a rhapsodic folk tune with four contrasting rhythmic segments. While each of the segments is written in the same pitch, Stravinsky structures their rhythms differently to impose “a sense of ambiguity within the characteristically-balanced, rounded-off quaternary outline. This style of music is one that also characterizes Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

The two compositions are similar in the way in which they make use of odd-meter rhythms. Compositions in odd meter have an emotional effect which can be felt by the audience. For example, in 1913, by using mixed and odd meters in his score for the ballet the rite of spring, Stravinsky engendered a firestorm of musical opprobrium. The composition has been lauded for its innovative use of primitive-sounding odd-meter rhythms. Appalachian spring is also rife with odd and mixed meters, convenient for accompanying modern dance.


In conclusion,The Appalachian Springby Aaron Copland and The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky are masterpieces in their own right. Theyare different in as many ways as they are similar, from the tonal variations to the use of mixed and odd meters, the two will pieces remain works of art that will remain a favorite for enthusiast of symphonies for many years to come.



Katherine, T. (2011). Making Music For Modern Dance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Simms, B., Wright, C., & Roden, T. (2009). Anthology for Music in Western Civilization, Volume 2. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


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