Lost Children Archive: A Novel by Valeria Luiselli:
My husband wants us to listen to Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring while we drive up and down this meandering road through the Cherokee National Forest, toward Asheville, North Carolina. It will be instructive, he says. So I roll down the window, breathe in the thin mountain air, and agree to search for the piece on my phone. When I finally catch some signal, I find a 1945 recording—apparently the original—and press Play.
For miles, as we make our way up to the very cusp of the mountain range and across the skyline drive, we hear Appalachian Spring over and over, and then once more. Making me pause, play, and pause again, my husband explains each element of the piece to the children: the tempo, the tonal links between movements, the overall structure of the composition. He tells them it’s a programmatic piece, and says it’s about white-eyes marrying, reproducing, conquering new land, and then driving Indians out of that land. He explains what a programmatic composition is, how it tells a story, how each section of instruments in the orchestra—woodwinds, strings, brass, percussion—represents a specific character, and how the instruments interact just like people talking, falling in love, fighting, and making up again.