Without much fanfare — well, actually, with fanfare — the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has played a key role in the shaping of American popular culture as we know it.
That’s the contention made — a bit indirectly — by Sean Wilentz, a Princeton University professor, in his recent book Bob Dylan in America. (He is also historian-in-residence for Dylan’s website, www.bobdylan.com.) Wilentz’s claims are based on the fact that the CSO commissioned American composer Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” during World War II. In his book, Wilentz believes that Copland played a key role in shaping Dylan’s musical aesthetic and, in turn, so much of the American music and cultural attitude that he has influenced.
The CSO premiered “Common Man” as one of 18 fanfares that composers wrote for its English-born conductor, Eugene Goossens, in 1942-1943 to honor the U.S.
military and its allies during World War II. Although they have evolved greatly, partly thanks to Copland’s “Common Man,” fanfares traditionally are short pieces featuring trumpets and snare drums and announcing or honoring important ceremonial events or persons.
Toronto-based composer/pianist Stewart Goodyear performs his commissioned fanfare piece in honor of WGUC and Paavo Jarvi Friday and Saturday with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at Music Hall. Go here to read Steven Rosen's full feature on fanfares and here to read Anne Arenstein's interview with Stewart Goodyear.