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NPR describes Emblems as "an 11-minute, one-movement work is a sampler of Copland's varied output: simple triadic passages, polytonality, folk melodies, dissonance, waltzes, polymeters, and elements of jazz all appear.

The work's initial reception was lukewarm, in part due to its technical challenges, but as Copland's only work for band it won a secure place in the repertoire. Of the work's cryptic title, Copland said only that it was meant 'to suggest musical states of being ... the exact nature of which must be determined by the listener.'"

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