Music in the Present Tense
By Jeremy Reynolds
Aaron Copland composed Fanfare for the Common Man at the behest of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942. His work became the most famous in a series of eighteen patriotic fanfares by American composers commissioned to kick off CSO concerts with pride and gusto during World War II. With its title inspired by a speech by Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Copland’s now famous tribute premiered in 1943, when the world was embroiled in World War II.
Fast-forward to 77 years later: instead of a World War, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging through America, lockdown restrictions have halted orchestras from playing premieres—or standard repertoire—and the nation is in the midst of protests and a national reckoning about racial inequality. In response, numerous ensembles have launched commissioning projects to respond to this historic time of pandemic and protest.