<< -- 3 -- Jennifer Paull IVES AND THE ESTABLISHMENT
Recent scholarship has established firm dates for the types of music
paper Ives used, and has been able to narrow estimated dates by various
developments in his handwriting. Most manuscripts can be accurately dated
to within a few years. This study has confirmed that indeed, he did develop
numerous innovative techniques before his European counterparts,
including polytonality, tone-clusters, atonality and polyrhythms, and many
Ives' music was more revolutionary for the America of those days than
the compositions of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Hindemith or Millaud were for
contemporary Europe. Again, one is tempted to draw a convincing parallel
with Antonio Gaudí !
How sad it is that Ives was not only misunderstood by many during his
lifetime, but that after his death, a certain milieu has sought to
discredit him. He was indeed right to be wary of the musical establishment.
I think he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, however, when
he said :
'Vagueness is at times an indication of nearness to perfect truth'.
Musicologists are still trying to sort out the truth from some of the
vague and conflicting instructions he left behind.
Ives suffered the first of several heart attacks, at the age of thirty
two, and began to live as a recluse. He wrote his music in pencil with such
a shaky hand that almost no one could read his writing. However, he possessed
a photographic memory of everything he had ever composed. This filled ten
drawers full of messy manuscripts in his barn.
From 1910-1918, he had been at his most prolific. In 1918 he became so
seriously ill that he sustained cardiac damage. Ives stopped composing new
works, focussing instead on revising and perfectioning those already drafted.
Copyright © 15 March 2001
Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA
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