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<<  -- 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 others.

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.

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Copyright © 15 March 2001 Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA




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