NEW YORK — Few would have thought of movie star Denzel Washington and classical composer Aaron Copland as members of the same artistic team. But they're just that on the soundtrack CD from "He Got Game," which has Washington's handsome face on the cover and Copland's rollicking music inside.
Movie fans and music buffs will be debating for years whether Spike Lee was clever or crazy to use Copland's quintessentially traditional music for his modernistic fable of African-American athletics in a contemporary city. But Lee himself seems quite comfortable with his choice. In the CD notes, he points out that basketball is played near "the sides of barns in Indiana" and "wheat fields in Kansas" as well as the asphalt courts of paved-over cities; this makes the sport as sweepingly American as Copland pieces like "John Henry" and "Lincoln Portrait" and "Billy the Kid," all of which appear on the disc.
Lee also notes that Copland was born in his own hometown of Brooklyn, adding, "So how could I go wrong?"
In a prudent marketing decision, Sony Classical has chosen not to pair Copland's works with the pungent, sometimes profane sounds of Public Enemy rap music that also punctuate the movie. While this makes the CD only a partial representation of the film's actual score, it allows Copland's countless admirers to enjoy another uninterrupted edition of his endlessly enjoyable work.