This Suite is taken from the ballet Billy the Kid written for the American Ballet Caravan at the suggestion of its director Lincoln Kirstein and based on a story by Eugene Loring. The following is a quotation from an article by Aaron Copland, Notes on a Cowboy Ballet.
The ballet begins and ends on the open prairie. The first scene is a street in a frontier town. Cowboys saunter into town, some on horseback, others on foot with their lassos; some Mexican women do a jarabe, which is interrupted by a fight between two drunks. Attracted by the gathering crowd, Billy is seen for the first time, a boy of twelve, with his mother. The brawl turns ugly, guns are drawn, and in some unaccountable way, Billy’s mother is killed. Without an instant’s hesitation, in cold fury, Billy draws a knife from a cowhand’s sheath and stabs his mother’s slayers. His short but famous career has begun. In swift succession we see episodes in Billy’s later life—at night, under the stars, in a quiet card game with his outlaw friends, hunted by a posse led by his former friend Pat Garrett, in a gun battle. A drunken celebration takes place when he is captured. Billy makes one of his legendary escapes from prison. Tired and worn out in the desert, Billy rests with his girl. Finally the posse catches up with him.
Billy The Kid, Ballet Suite
By Aaron Copland
Composed in 1938