'Tis the gift to be free

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come round right
Simple gifts (Shaker song) from Aaron Copland's (above) Old American Songs, set 1, composed in 1950

Tuesday, May 26, 1953
U.S. Senate
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
of the Committee on Government Operations,
Washington, DC.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to Senate Resolution 40,
agreed to January 30, 1953, at 2:30 p.m. in the Office of the
District Committee, the Capitol, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

The Chairman. Could I ask you now about some of your activities. As I said, according to the records, you have what appears to be one of the longest Communist-front records of anyone we have had here. Is it correct that you signed some statement to President Roosevelt defending the Communist party?
Mr. Copland. I have no memory of that but I may have.
The Chairman. Was that your feeling at that time? Did you feel the Communist party should be defended?
Mr. Copland. Well, it would certainly depend on what basis.For example, if someone wanted to have them outlawed to go underground, I might have. I don't think they should be outlawed to go underground, but left above board.

Mr. Copland. I don't think that is a fair summary of my feeling. I have never sympathized with Communists as such. My interest in Eisler was purely as a musician.I think he is, in spite of his political ideas, a great musician and my signing of the concert sponsorship was in relation to that feeling.

The Chairman. Concert sponsorship? It is the petition I am talking about. Do you use the same term so many witnesses use? Do you refer to political beliefs--do you consider the Communist party as a political party in the American sense?
Mr. Copland. In the American sense? Not since the designation of the Supreme Court.
The Chairman. Was this a benefit for Eisler at which you appeared on February 28th, 1948?
Mr. Copland. I don't remember.Pardon me. Will you repeat the question?
The Chairman. Did you appear at an Eisler program at Town
Hall, New York, on February 28, 1948?
Mr. Copland. No, I did not. That was purely sponsorship.
The Chairman. Did you sponsor that?
Mr. Copland. I was one of the sponsors.
The Chairman. Did you know at that time he was in difficulty with the law enforcement agencies of this country for underground or espionage activities?
Mr. Copland. I may have known that, but my sponsorship was in terms of music only and him as a musician.

The Chairman. One final question.
Quoting Hanns Eisler (right), is this a correct description of you by Eisler:
'I am extremely pleased to report a considerable shift to the left among the American artistic intelligentsia. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to state that the best people in the musical world of America (with very few exceptions) share at present extremely progressive ideas.
Their names? They are Aaron Copland.'

Would you say that is a correct description of you?
Mr. Copland. No, I would not. I would say he is using knowledge of my liberal feelings in the arts and in general to typify me as a help to his own cause.
The Chairman. Just for the record, this quotation from Eisler appears in the House Un-American Activities Committee Hearing, September 24, 25, 26, 1947, pages 36, 38, 39.
I have no further questions. How about you Mr. Cohn?
Mr. Cohn. No, sir.
The Chairman. Senator Mundt?
Senator Mundt. No.
Mr. Cohn. You are reminded that you are still under
subpoena and will be called again within the next week, I would
[Whereupon the hearing adjourned.]

Hanns Eisler had been forced to leave the U.S. in 1948. For the full text of Aaron Copland's 1953 closed hearing follow An Overgrown Path to Aaron Copland's McCarthy hearing.

Photo credits -
Aaron Copland -
Senator Joseph McCarthy -
Eve's magazine
Hanns Eisler - Gesine-Heinrich
Report broken links, missing images, and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Anonymous said…
Horay for republicans! horay for the 50s! oh, they were marvelous times.

Why doesnt this sting the republicans more? especially since so many dogmatic republicans in america actually openly defend mccarthy and his actions. Does american politics appaul you in the UK as it does us americans?

-m. keiser
Pliable said…
MK - I guess I now view myself as a global citizen, and it is global politics, rather than US or UK, that appal me.

Clearly the McCarthy era was a terrible one, but so was that of Stalin. My overgrown path writing is a personal voyage of discovery about these times, and I hope also sometimes for my readers.

Increasingly I learn not to be judgemental about single episodes, I do despair about the fallibility of the human race in general, but I am also reassured by its ability to regenerate.

So in a couple of days I am off to visit that symbol of regeneration where fascism and democracy, and subsequently capitalism and communism collided head on - Berlin.

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