1953 January 20

No “Leftist” Music at the Inaugural

 

On this day, organizers of President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration cancelled plans for a performance of composer Aaron Copland’s classical orchestral work, Lincoln Portrait, at the ceremony. Copland is one of America’s most noted composers, but he had been active in left-wing politics, and the inauguration’s organizers did not want to be associated with him. Later in 1953, in fact, he was called to testify about his political beliefs and associations by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Copland was inspired early in his career by the famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz to create music that would “express the ideas of American democracy.” He is particularly famous for “Appalachian Spring” (1944) and “Fanfare for the Common Man” (1942).

Learn more: Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man (1989)

Listen to Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” with Henry Fonda and James Earl Jones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut99hSClJV4

Learn more about President Eisenhower: Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower (1983)

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