Eastern Kentucky University

Poster Title

Come Fathers, Come Mothers, Come Sisters, Come Brothers: Otherness and Community in "Zion's Walls"

Institution

Eastern Kentucky University

Abstract

In 1952, American composer Aaron Copland gathered various folk songs from throughout the United States and arranged them to create a series of pieces for voice entitled Old American Songs. This study examined both Copland’s choral setting of “Zion’s Walls” as well as the original Christian Revivalist tune which first appeared in John G. McMurry’s shape-note hymnal The Social Harp nearly a century before Copland’s arrangement. Critical and historical reading of “Zion’s Walls” revealed two distinct musical movements in two very different periods of American history that were inextricably linked through shared themes of physical and social isolation and alienation, as well as a desire for community and reunification. In the case of the rural Christians of the South, they wished to be united at the symbolic city of Zion; Copland encouraged reunification of the Jewish diaspora in the newly-created state of Israel. Despite emerging from two seemingly disparate musical traditions and cultural experiences, “Zion’s Walls” serves as a lens into the common threads that bind American life and music together. Contextual examinations of original source material as well as Copland’s updated arrangement conclusively demonstrate that both isolation and community are integral facets of American musical experience.

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Come Fathers, Come Mothers, Come Sisters, Come Brothers: Otherness and Community in "Zion's Walls"

In 1952, American composer Aaron Copland gathered various folk songs from throughout the United States and arranged them to create a series of pieces for voice entitled Old American Songs. This study examined both Copland’s choral setting of “Zion’s Walls” as well as the original Christian Revivalist tune which first appeared in John G. McMurry’s shape-note hymnal The Social Harp nearly a century before Copland’s arrangement. Critical and historical reading of “Zion’s Walls” revealed two distinct musical movements in two very different periods of American history that were inextricably linked through shared themes of physical and social isolation and alienation, as well as a desire for community and reunification. In the case of the rural Christians of the South, they wished to be united at the symbolic city of Zion; Copland encouraged reunification of the Jewish diaspora in the newly-created state of Israel. Despite emerging from two seemingly disparate musical traditions and cultural experiences, “Zion’s Walls” serves as a lens into the common threads that bind American life and music together. Contextual examinations of original source material as well as Copland’s updated arrangement conclusively demonstrate that both isolation and community are integral facets of American musical experience.