<< -- 2 -- Jennifer Paull IVES AND THE ESTABLISHMENT
The Halls of Fame in all of the Arts are not littered by the presence
of Couch Potatoes, but by those who have suffered for their Cause. How amazing
it is that the very fact that Ives made himself comfortable caused many
to turn away. He was labelled 'primitive' not because he lacked a formal
musical education, but because he dared to do something else apart
In 1919 Ives decided to publish some of his music without copyright or
performing rights agreements. These self-publications brought him a small
group of faithful admirers who worked to promote his music. They included
the British composer/conductor Eugene Goossens, the French pianist Robert
Schmitz, and several composer-conductors including the American, Bernard
These friends courageously performed Ives music in the face of public
disfavour. Slonimsky not only bravely conducted performances in both the
United States and Europe, but was the first to record Ives. Bernard Herrmann
conducted the first broadcast of Ives' music (1933).
The unique circumstances of Ives' career have bred many misunderstandings
which do not do him justice. One result of his unusual path is that the
chronology of his music is difficult to establish beyond general outlines.
His practice of composing and reworking pieces over many years often
makes it impossible to assign a single date to a work. That he worked on
many compositions and in many idioms simultaneously makes the chronological
relationship between works more complex still.
There is often no independent verification of the dates Ives assigned
to his music, which can be years or decades before the first performance,
It has also been unfairly suggested that he dated many pieces too early
and concealed significant revisions in order to claim priority over European
composers who used similar techniques. Another untrue and ignoble suggestion
is that he wished to hide from his business associates how much time he
was spending on music in the 1920s.
If there is one thing we can say of Ives with certainty, it is that he
did not lack courage. Such criticisms are not only unfounded, but
show the unfortunate traits in the characters of those who produce them.
The musical milieu can ostracise its own, even posthumously, to the
point of stupidity.
Copyright © 15 March 2001
Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA
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