Appalachian Spring By Franko, Mark
Appalachian Spring was choreographer Martha Graham’s final piece of Americana in her series of choreography that began with the solo Frontier in 1935 (music by Louis Horst), and continued on with American Document in 1938 (music by Ray Green). Aaron Copland composed the original score for Appalachian Spring, Isamu Noguchi designed the set and properties, and Edythe Gilfond designed the costumes. The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation sponsored Copland’s score and the première of Appalachian Spring on October 30, 1944 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 1 The original cast included Graham as the Bride, Erick Hawkins as the Husbandman, Merce Cunningham as the Revivalist, and May O’Donnell as the Pioneer Woman. The title was taken from Hart Crane’s poem The Bridge (Murphy 2007: 158). Appalachian Spring was acclaimed in 1944, at the height of World War II, as a patriotic affirmation of traditional American values in opposition to Nazi fascism. The regional Americanism theme of the 1930s prevalent in visual art in the 1940s was, as Martin Graebner has pointed out, “easily transmuted into the theme of rural patriotism” (1991: 7). Appalachian Spring has survived in the repertoire of the Martha Graham Dance Company to the present day. Shorn of the World War II context in which it premièred, Appalachian Spring is now considered a lyrical and psychological study.