COWBOYS, CABALLEROS & COPLAND!
Developed by Michael Barrett and Jamie Bernstein
Written by Jamie Bernstein
Yep: Billy the Kid was one of the most famous outlaws in the Wild West. When Billy was just fifteen, he went to jail for stealing some butter -- but he was so skinny, he managed to escape from the jailhouse by climbing UP the chimney! Sort of a backwards Santa Claus thing. For the next six years, Billy the Kid was the meanest outlaw in the Wild West -- until Sheriff Pat Garrett shot him dead. At the age of 21, Billy the Kid’s short and nasty life was over.
Aaron Copland was so fascinated by this Wild West story that he wrote the music for a whole ballet about “Billy the Kid.”
Copland actually invented a way to make his music describe those wide-open spaces of the Old West. Here’s how he did it: he put wide-open spaces between his notes! And it really works.
Take a look at the very first notes of "Billy the Kid." The clarinets are playing this:
CUE 2: (DEMO) 1st 6 bars of “Open Prairie” – 2 clarinets
You hear how high up they're playing? Meanwhile, the oboe is playing this:
CUE 3: (DEMO) 1st 4 bars of “Open Prairie” oboe only
Now listen to how they fit together.
CUE 4: (DEMO) 1st 6 bars of “Open Prairie,” oboe & clars.
You hear how the instruments sound way, far apart from each other? Maybe they even sound a little lonely, just like we would feel if we were in a covered wagon day after day, crossing those big empty spaces under that wide open sky: no highway, no cars, no McDonald’s – no nuthin’.
Here's "The Open Prairie," from "Billy the Kid."
CUE 5: (TUTTI) OPEN PRAIRIE