11/08/2013 10:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dog Ears Music: Born in November


Aaron Copland
Iconic American composer and arranger Aaron Copland was born in New York City on November 14, 1900. His first musical inspiration came from his older sister, who taught him piano, beginning his artful odyssey. By his teens, sights set on composing, he went to Paris, where he became the first American student of the legendary Nadia Boulanger. (He was selected a few years later to write a concerto for Boulanger's American performances.) Copland's creations run the gamut: orchestral, choral, ballet, and film. His most notable works include "Appalachian Spring," "Billy the Kid," "Rodeo," "Of Mice and Men," and "Connotations" (a piece written for the opening of Lincoln Center in 1962). Collaborations include Martha Graham, Orson Welles, Serge Koussevitzky, and Andre Kostelanetz. His accolades include the 1945 Pulitzer Prize in Composition for Appalachian Spring, the 1950 Oscar for Best Musical Score (The Heiress), and the 1960 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (Orchestral Suite from The Tender Land). The maestro passed away in December 1990, and his music leaves us an immortal gift. Revisit Copland's epic 1938 title "Billy the Kid: The Open Prairie Again," from The Copland Collection: Orchestral & Ballet Works, 1936-1948; stirring and elegant.

Genre: Classical

Artist: Aaron Copland

Song: Billy the Kid: The Open Prairie Again

Album: The Copland Collection: Orchestral & Ballet Works, 1936-1948

Francy Boland
Bebop composer/arranger and pianist Francy Boland was born in Belgium in 1929. He took up piano at the age of 8, and post-WWII attended the Royal Music Conservatory in Liège. After becoming a legend in Paris, Boland took off during the '50s with the Chet Baker quintette, eventually landing Stateside. He went on to write arrangements for Count Basie and Benny Goodman, then forged an octette alliance with drummer Kenny Clarke. Boland and Clarke issued dozens of releases during their tenure. Collaborations include Woody Herman, Henri Renaud, Aimé Barelli, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Farmer, Mary Lou Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Gigi Campi, and Stan Getz. The genius passed away in 2005. Revisit Francy Boland with "Fiebre Cuban," featuring Kenny Clarke, from the collection Mambomania-Talkin' Verve.

Genre: World

Artist: Francy Boland

Song: Fiebre Cuban

Album: Mambomania-Talkin' Verve

Krzysztof Penderecki
Avant classical composer/conductor Krzysztof Penderecki was born in Poland in 1933, on the eve of Hitler's takeover. As a boy, he picked up the violin and piano, and by his late teens attended conservatory in Krakow. After the war, he became a champion at the Warsaw Competition for Young Composers, setting his trajectory. Penderecki's trove of works include "Dies Irae" and "Resurrection," which premiered at Carnegie Hall. Collaborations include Berlin Philharmonic; orchestras in France, England, Italy, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland; and performances with the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and Isaac Stern. Accolades include a UNESCO Award, induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, three Grammy Awards, and many honorary doctorates. Discover his groundbreaking "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Stringed Instruments," from the 1973 release Penderecki: Orchestral Works Vol. 1.

Genre: Classical

Artist: Krzysztof Penderecki

Song: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Stringed Instruments

Album: Penderecki: Orchestral Works Vol. 1

Brownie McGhee (with Sonny Terry)
Blues duo Brownie McGhee (guitar) and Sonny Terry (harmonica) are a dominant force in blues lore. Walter Brown McGhee was born 1915 in Tennessee into a musical family. He caught polio as a child and was left with a limp. Saunders Terrell (Terry) was born in 1911 in North Carolina into a musical family and in boyhood lost his sight in a farm accident. McGhee and Terry first met in 1939 playing with Paul Robeson in Washington, D.C. In 1941 the two were busking in New York City, and by 1944 the pair made their first recording. In 1947, they moved on to separate projects, but reunited for Tennessee Williams' musical of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955, recording three albums together that year. Their partnership flourished through the mid-'70s. Collaborations included Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. Terry passed away in 1986, and McGhee in 1996. Both are in the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame. The title "Better Day," from Smithsonian Folkways American Roots Collection, is an authentic and serendipitous marvel.

Genre: Folk

Artist: Brownie McGhee (with Sonny Terry)

Song: Better Day

Album: Smithsonian Folkways American Roots Collection

Asmahan, also known as Amal Al Atrash, was born in 1918, the only daughter among four children, well-heeled. She lived in Lebanon until she was 2, then moved on to Demergi, Turkey, where her father served as governor. By the age of 6, the young aristocrat lost her father and the family moved to Egypt; fortune was lost and hardships endured. To make ends meet, her mother sang at private social functions. Her brother became the renowned vocalist Farid El Atrache. Raised on European music, she incorporated Arabic traditions and created her own sound. After Farid hit it big on Egypt's national radio, Amal was discovered by Mouhammad Al Qasabji, who crowned her Asmahan. Collaborations include Kassabgi, Riad Sombati, and Abdelwahab. Asmahan's untimely death as a result of a car accident in 1944 remains an unsolved mystery of WWII. Discover Asmahan with "Ya Dirati Idi Fi Idek," from Archives Des Années 1942/1944 (du Film "Intissar Echabab" / Avec Farid El Atrache).

Genre: World

Artist: Asmahan

Song: Ya Dirati Idi Fi Idek

Album: Archives Des Années 1942/1944 (du Film "Intissar Echabab" / Avec Farid ElAtrache)

José Iturbi
Classical virtuoso José Iturbi was born in Spain in 1895 to music-loving parents. He took up piano at 3, and by 7 he was earning serious coin playing in silent film houses. In his teens, he won a scholarship to the Paris Conservatory of Music, where he graduated with honors at 17. Iturbi made the rounds on the Paris café circuit before teaching in Geneva. By the late '20s, he played Carnegie Hall and inked a deal with RCA Victor. While on tour in South America, Iturbi survived a plane crash, heroically rescued passengers, and without pause, went on to appear at his next scheduled concert. Holding court as the principal conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic, Iturbi was also a leading radio and film figure, composed for MGM, and cut over 50 recordings. Collaborations include Judy Garland, Tallulah Bankhead, Franz Waxman, Gene Kelly, Lena Horne, Ethel Barrymore, Mario Lanza, and Frank Sinatra. The virtuoso passed away in 1980. Remember him with "Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 12 in F Major K. 332: II. Adagio," from José Iturbi: Mozart Œuvres Pour Piano).

Genre: Classical

Artist: José Iturbi

Song: Piano Sonata No. 12 in F Major, K. 332: II. Adagio

Album: Mozart Œuvres Pour Piano)