As a young man, Copland had an intellectual friend, Aaron Schaffer, who was a poet. Copland set three of his poems to music: Night, A Summer Vacation, and My Heart is in the East. Among Copland's earliest pieces, these short songs are traditional in style with occasional touches of Debussy and Ravel, the "modern" music of the times. The fourth song in the grouping is a two-page setting of a poem by John Duncan, titled Alone. It was discovered in Copland's files by Vivian Perlis and premiered by Jan DeGaetani.
Copland wrote three songs to texts by Aaron Schaffer in 1918: “My Heart Is in the East,” “A Summer Vacation,” and “Night.” Separately, he wrote the song Alone (1922, text by E. P. Mathers). When celebrating the Copland centennial in 2000, Boosey & Hawkes decided to publish these previously unpublished works together, giving them the name Four Early Songs.