During the 1970s Copland put his musical house in order, producing works based on earlier sketches, of which the most extensive is the Duo for Flute and Piano of 1971. A second career, that of conductor, opened up for him as he conducted not only his own compositions but those of other Americans and works from the standard repertory. He also recorded much of his own music, the orchestral works with the London Symphony orchestra.
At the same time, Copland made preparations for writing his autobiography, such as requesting that his friends send him copies of the letters they had received from him. Written with Vivian Perlis and including transcriptions of Perlis's oral-history interviews with Copland's friends and associates, the autobiography appeared in two volumes, the first in 1984 and the second in 1989.
Aaron Copland died on December 2, 1990, a few days after his ninetieth birthday.