Specifically Aaron Copland to begin with. I just was watching the New York Philharmonic play a suite of music I’d never heard before, but it was unmistakably Copland. I fortunately tuned in to hear the whole piece, but not in time to hear what it was; it turned out to be Appalachian Spring*.
What is it exactly that makes Copland so distinct?
- Liberal use of horns and timpani, much like other American composers.
- Numerous staccato arpeggios or ostinatos (riffs).
- Said arpeggios being echoed by successive sections.
- Playing around with the upbeat and downbeat. That may not be the best way to put it, but I think this is a big one and can be expanded upon by more knowledgeable Dopers.
I’m also usually able to ID a Beethoven piece, and when I’m wrong it’s some other German or Austrian.
Who can you always recognize, even if you’ve never heard the specific piece?
*: I have to apologize for never having actually listened to Appalachian Spring before. I’m sure I’ve heard parts of it, it’s on a CD I have. “Celebration” from Billy the Kid and “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo come up on my favorite playlist all the time.