Republicans Keep Misusing Aaron Copland's Music

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Has anyone checked Aaron Copland's grave for signs of vigorous rolling? Copland, the great American composer, who was openly gay and whose politics were socialist-leaning, keeps showing up on the Republican campaign. First Rick Perry soundtracked a homophobic ad with music inspired by Copland, Now Romney has invoked Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" at his final campaign stops

If the Romney campaign did their research on Copland, they'd probably cringe at the thought of associating themselves with this piece. Copland got the title and inspiration for "Fanfare for the Common Man" from a speech by uber-lefty politician Henry A. Wallace, the Communist Party-endorsed candidate for the presidency in 1948. Wallace's speech "The Century of the Common Man" looked on the Russian Revolution of 1917 favorably and contained rhetoric that bordered on endorsing socialism. Uncoupled from these associations, Copland's "Fanfare" might strike a tone of patriotism that sounds suitable for campaign stops. But this symphonic ode to the 47 percent doesn't align with Romney's platform very well.

A tip of the hat to The New Yorker's classical music critic Alex Ross for spotting this. He was also one of the first to pick up on Perry's misappropriation of Copland. If you want to be the first to know when politicians make classical music gaffes, you really ought to be following Ross. In a blog post on Copland's misuse in politics, he notes, "Coplandisms have been a cliché in campaign commercials from all points on the political spectrum." 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.