The Red Pony, Film Suite for Band (1948)
Aaron Copland wrote the music for the film of John Steinbeck’s novel, The Red Pony, in 1948. Steinbeck’s well-known tale is a series of vignettes concerning a ten-year-old boy named Jody, and his life in a California ranch setting. There is a minimum of dramatic or startling action in the plot. Rather, the story gets its warmth and sensitivity from the character studies of Jody, Jody’s grandfather, the cow-hand Billy Buck, and Jody’s parents, the Tiflins.
The present version of that orchestral composition was created by Copland in 1968. He selected four of the six original movements for his The Red Pony, Film Suite for Band.
I. a & b. Dream March and Circus Music. Jody tends to lapse into day-dreams. Two of them are pictured here. In the first, Jody imagines himself with Billy Buck at the head of an army of knights in silvery armour; in the second, he is the whip-cracking ringmaster at the circus.
II. Walk to the Bunkhouse. Billy Buck was a “fine hand with the horses,” and Jody’s admiration knew no bounds. This is a scene of the two pals on their walk to the bunkhouse.
III. Grandfather’s Story. Jody’s grandfather retells the story of how he led a wagon train “clear across the plains to the coast.” But he can’t hide his bitterness from the boy. In his opinion, “Westerning has died out of the people. Westerning isn’t a hunger any more.”
IV. Happy Ending. Some of the title music is incorporated into the final movement. A folk-like melody suggests the open-air quality of country living.
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