FROM THE LINER NOTES:
I wish more audiences could have the experience of watching the movie without any music and then seeing it the second time with music added. I think that would give them a full sense of what music does for making the cold movie screen seem more humane, more touching, and more civilized. -Aaron Copland
According to composer, conductor, writer, educator Aaron Copland (who ought to know), 'I fail to see why, if successful suites like Grieg's Peer Gynt can be made from nineteenth-century incidental stage music, a twentieth-century composer can't be expected to do as well with a film score." (from WHAT TO LISTEN FOR IN MUSIC, McGraw-Hill).
Copland scored less than 10 films. He arranged three Suites from these: MUSIC FOR A GREAT CITY (pulled from Something Wild,196l); 1943's MUSIC FOR MOVIES (from The City, Of Mice And Men, and Our Town); and the most famous, THE RED PONY SUITE, a case where a good soundtrack is perfect for film, and (with a bit of tinkering) just as effective in the concert hall.
THE RED PONY was finished at the beginning of 1948. Efrem Kurtz requested a Suite be made for performance. Copland obliged and Kurtz conducted the Houston Symphony Orchestra for the first performance in October of the same year. It readily stands next to Copland's other, 'populist' pieces; buckaroo ballets like BILLY THE KID (1938) and RODEO (1942); Martha Graham's APPAlACHIAN SPRING (1944); A LINCOLN PORTRAIT (1942); the opera, THE TENDER LAND (1944), and A FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN (1943).
Those familiar with the Suite will hear a good deal of music never before on record. There are fresh thematic treatments; extended sequences (some which were not in the film or the Suite); and some segments which could have easily been lifted right out of the score and added to the Suite (an inspiration to some future arranger, perhaps). As marvelous as THE RED PONY SUITE is, it could have been much, much longer.
Walk To The Bunkhouse, conversely, is musical shorthand for Tom's idealization of Billy, the consummate cowpoke. Copland uses a three against-two syncopation, relaxed, masculine trumpet and even more relaxed strings. This gives a feel of wide-open-spaciness that has been much copied by Copland successors like Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. The section closes with Tom's Theme and a variant ending of Ringmaster.
4. "The Gift/The Red Pony Debuts-Tom's School Friends/Homecoming": The section starts with a dreamy, evening mood, the orchestration perfectly capturing the emotions of a young boy whose wish for a pony has been fulfilled. Copland used instrumention and structure as delicate as the foal's first steps.
"Homecoming" is an anguished undercurrent to the icy reunion of Tom's parents (Myrna Loy and Shepperd Strudwick). Copland's score defines the emotional tension and turmoil of the scene, a cinematic dimension which only music can express.
5. "The Knights At Arms": As Tom makes his dusty way to school, his mind turns the dirty trail into Medieval mists; the trees behind him become castles, and his beating of a stick against his lunchpail swells into a powerful, soul-stirring march. Copland matched the crystallizing fantasy of Knights on Horseback by modulating his March into an orchestral tutti that gleamed like so much Hollywood armour. The splendor is shattered by yells from Tom's chums. The end is buffoonish, a tuba solo taking over the musical masses.
6. "Shall We Gather At The River": Robert Lowry's beautiful hymn is given the finger-clunk treatment by Tom's mother, This is an excellent example of source music adding the appropriate touch, Mrs, Tiflin's piano playing illustrating that all is not right with the family.
7. "Moth 'Round A Flame": This is where the Tiflin troubles began. Grandfather (Louis Calhern), an old saw who once trekked the West when men were men (etcetera), is telling a story at the dinner table. It soon becomes apparent that everyone has heard these stories ... over ... and ... over ... and ... over! Copland creates a dissonant, monotonous dirge which makes us feel like we, too, have heard Grandfather's ramblings before. A moth soon gains everyone's attention. Flitting flutes and tremulo strings illustrate that it is a mere insect, not Grandfather's umpteenth telling of tougher times, which holds the family's interest.
8. "Night/Grandfather's Story-Westerin'": Low reeds signal disaster. The Pony, already sick, runs off into the night and dies.
9. "The Pony Gets Sick/Rosie At The Pond": This sequence begins with a painful, two-note motif, thrown from strings to winds, and back again, finally descending to the lowest depths of the clarinet. It ends with a sequence for Tom sitting sadly by the water, being playfully nudged by Billy's horse, Rosie.
About This RecordingThis album has been produced from the original Republic Pictures 78rpm disc masters at the soundtrack recording sessions in 1948. Because these records were not made with commercial release in mind, the monaural sound quality varies. Surface noise due to age and condition of the acetate originals has been minimized as much as possible in making the transfer to the tape from which this album was produced.