We Need to Talk About Dance and a Quiet City

Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

Music: Quiet City

Composer: Aaron Copland

Whether they realize or not, most people probably know at least one Aaron Copland piece by default. His Appalachian Spring includes a tune known to most people – depending from which continent you hail – as ‘Simple Gifts’ (played at President Obama’s first inauguration) or ‘Lord of the Dance.’ I hadn’t heard or heard of Quiet City before reading the title in We Need to Talk About Kevin. It’s very Aaron Copland-y – very evocative of the title, actually, and not terribly demanding of the listener. Speaking of ‘Lord of the Dance,’ in the early 1990s I went to a concert of carols in the Albert Hall in London at which I felt ridiculously privileged (and still do) when the composer of the hymn, Sydney Carter, was brought on stage and introduced. I’d learned, sung (mouthed if I was on show with the choir, very shy, was I), and loved ‘Lord of the Dance’ as a child in primary school and I assumed that, like the composers of all of the other hymns, he was either ‘Anonymous,’ dead, or both. I just felt very lucky to see and hear someone ‘famous’ who’d touched my school days like that. Also seemed like a real revelation that a hymn could be still under copyright. ‘Dance then, wherever you may be …


Link to streaming audio: New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, Conductor (Spotify)

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