Appalachian Spring is a ballet score by Aaron Copland that premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite. The ballet, scored for a thirteen-member chamber orchestra, was created upon commission of choreographer and dancer Martha Graham with funds from the Coolidge Foundation headed by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge; it premiered on Monday, October 30th, 1944, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, with Martha Graham dancing the lead role. The set was designed by the Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Copland was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his achievement.  
In 1945, Copland rearranged the ballet work as an orchestral suite, preserving most of the music. The ballet and orchestral work were well received. The latter was credited as more important in popularizing the composer. In 1972, Boosey & Hawkes published a version of the suite fusing the structure of the orchestral suite with the scoring of the original ballet: double string quartet, bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon, and piano. All three versions continue to be performed in full.
Originally, Copland did not have a title for the work, referring to it simply as Ballet for Martha. Shortly before the premiere, Graham suggested Appalachian Spring, a phrase from a Hart Crane poem, "The Bridge", even though it has no direct relation to the story of the ballet:
O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Copland was often amused when people told him he captured the beauty of the Appalachians in his music, a fact he alluded to in an interview with NPR's Fred Calland . Furthermore, the word "spring", usually taken in the title to refer to a season of the year, denotes a source of water in the Crane poem.
The story told is a spring celebration of the American pioneers of the 1800s after building a new Pennsylvania farmhouse. Among the central characters are a newlywed couple, a neighbor, a revivalist preacher and his followers.
The orchestral suite is divided in eight sections, which Copland describes as:
The original ballet version is divided in 14 movements. The movements that do not appear in the orchestral suite all occur between movement 7 and the last movement. The seventh section, which is a set of variations on the Shaker melody Simple Gifts (1848), is the most widely recognized section from the ballet. Copland published independent arrangements of this section for band (1958) and orchestra (1967) titled Variations on a Shaker Melody. Each variation takes the simple theme with changes limited to key, accompaniment, register, dynamics, tone color, and tempo. The second variation provides a lyrical treatment in the low register while the third contrasts starkly in a fast staccato. The last two variations of this section use only a part of the folk tune, first an extraction treated as a pastoral variation and then as a majestic closing. In the ballet, but not the suite, there is a lengthy intermediary section that moves away from the folk tune preceding the final two variations.