School of Music


Master of Arts in Music and Worship (MA)


Monica Taylor


Aaron Copland, Classical American Music, Film Music, John Williams, Modal Interchange, Pandiatonicism


Ethnomusicology | Music | Music Education | Musicology | Music Theory | Other Music


American classical music has enjoyed a long-standing presence around the world as its own entity within the classical music genre. As early as the 1920s, American classical music has had its own unique sound. The early 20th Century was a time of musical experimentation and social unrest in America. Due to its relative newness and experimentation by numerous composers, identifying the defining characteristics of American music, an experimental music itself, became difficult and ambiguous. Also, the continuation of American classical music became increasingly problematic as classical music was replaced in popular culture by other genres of music. The research for this study examined American classical music through the compositions of the Father of American Music: Aaron Copland. Through study and analysis of his music, characteristics of American classical music were identified, classified in this study as the Classical American Sound. Further research demonstrated that the Classical American Sound reached beyond the concert and into the world of film music. Through Western genre movies, the Classical American Sound – or the majority of its characteristics – were popularized in mainstream culture in the 1940s and 1950s. Through the compositions of modern composer John Williams, the Classical American Sound has evolved, yet has kept its basic characteristics. The Classical American Sound had a major impact upon American culture and identity, and the possibilities for further impact remains to be fully achieved.