Going West/Music for Our Great Field Trip - SQUILT Lesson #4

What a treat today's music is.    Aaron Copland is MY FAVORITE COMPOSER OF ALL TIME!   

I fell in love with his music when I was in high school, and then studied it more in depth when I got to college.   I can vividly remember the year - 1990 - we went to our music history class and our professor told us Aaron Copland had died.   It was a sad day for the music world.

My favorite piece was always Appalachian Spring, but as I've shared his music with my children I've come to love it all.    This week's selection is "Hoe down" from Rodeo.   (You might recognize it as the music from the Beef Council commercial!)

Aaron Copland's music is quinticentially AMERICAN.  Every note of it makes you feel that you are standing somewhere in the American landscape, whether it is the Appalachian Mountains or the Great Plains.  


*image courtest Wikipedia Commons

As we prepare to leave for our trek to The Rocky Mountains and The Oregon Trail I wanted my children to listen to some of his music and analyze WHAT makes it sound so American.    They have been enjoying it so much.    I haven't been scientific about it, either.   I have just searched on YouTube and let them listen to anything and everything Aaron Copland.  

 Download your SQUILT listening sheet here.   If you aren't familiar with SQUILT, read this post before you get started.     

Invite your children to listen quietly to Hoe down-- after this initial listening you can then ask them to fill out their SQUILT form while listening again.   Watching this YouTube video is helpful while identifying instruments, etc.... 


There's just so much here as you're listening.   The spirit of the American West is heard; it's as if you can see the people dancing and riding horses.   Do your children know what a hoe down is?   Quite simply, it is a lively American folk dance.


Most of the piece is loud (forte) due to the nature of the hoedown.    It does get a bit softer when we hear the horses hooves (played by the woodblocks) in the beginning.    Throughout the piece it alternates between the loud sections and short soft sections.


It is quite fast and lively.  There is a MAIN THEME that is presented in the beginning and keeps recurring throughout the piece.  Can your children hear it?   The rhythms in the pieces were masterfully created by Copland to sound like horses and people dancing.  

If you want to get more technical, this piece is in duple meter -- which means the beats are grouped in twos. Can your children count "1-2, 1-2, 1-2" with the piece?


This is fun!  I hear a full range of the orchestra:  strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.   Do you know about the different families of the orchestra?  This site may help.    Listen for the following instruments that play an imortant part:

  • xylophone
  • violins (they would have been referred to as "fiddles" in the Old West)
  • trumpet solo



Obviously it is lively, dancing music.    How does Copland's music evoke the spirit of the American West??  


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