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<<  -- 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 from music.

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 Herrmann.

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, or publication.

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.

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Copyright © 15 March 2001 Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA




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