Cowboys in Tutus

July 15, 2016 at 10:00 am

Billy the Kid was not a very nice person. If I saw him on the street, I would run and hide in a barrel. If I saw him on the street wearing a tutu, I would still run and hide, but I’d probably run and hide in a barrel with a hole in it, so I could peek out and watch him dance.

Allegedly, Billy the Kid was shot and killed in the Wild West sometime around midnight on July 14/15, 1881. Afterwards, rumors spread that he was still alive, and numerous people pretended to be him. His life and death quickly became American legends. Fastforward to 1939; Aaron Copland was asked to write a music for ballet based on Billy’s life. Copland’s use of cowboy tunes, along with his own distinct compositional style, were helping to shape the definition of American music (Copland’s influence can be heard in the works of Barber, Williams, and Theofanidis.)

The ballet suite is divided into sections that are easy for any listener to identify:

I. Introduction: The Open Prairie
II. Street in a Frontier Town
III. Prairie Night
IV. Gun Battle
V. Celebration (after Billy’s Capture)
VI. Billy’s Death
VII. The Open Prairie Again