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Antonín Dvořák came to the United States and, as only a newcomer could, taught Americans how to learn from the music of our folk heritage. In fact, this is his great contribution to music, the ability to understand and learn from indigenous and folk sources to create a lasting and inspiring music from the bottom up.
Aaron Copland composed what, to my mind, is the best American music of the 20th century. While rooted in the American experience, this music is joyous, optimistic and forward looking. It is a music that speaks to the wondrous landscape of America.
As with Copeland, Madison Avenue has done much to turn the works of George Gershwin into clichés. But no matter, these works embody what would become known as the American century. In what can only be described as symptomatic of so much of America, Gershwin so admired the French composers that he asked to study under them. Surely he was able to beat the French at their own game but didn't, unlike Frank Lloyd Wright, know it.