<< -- 3 -- Jennifer Paull IVES AND THE ESTABLISHMENT
It was imperative to him that memory of his past stay intact without
the realities of modern progress tarnishing their image upon the canvass
of his fertile imagination. He called upon the souvenirs of a Danbury past,
and didn't wish to find the modifications of Danbury present.
Ives had listened to the tunes of the old minstrel band and the theatre
orchestras. The off-key singing of the congregations at Church and the reels
and jigs of the Connecticut fiddle players enchanted him. The traditional
marches played (somewhat out of tune) by the village band, the singing of
a family around a spluttering harmonium, the medleys of patriotic melodies
offered on festive occasions -- all of these were to enter into his music.
'I found I could not go on using familiar chords only, I heard something
else' Ives said of himself. He was convinced in the true Romantic tradition,
that, as he put it, ' music ..comes directly out of the heart of the experience
of life and living life'.
Some of Ives' works are like scrap books which give shape to a sort of
collective American nostalgia, a sound collage for the vanished 'good old
Others treat philosophical topics. One such, The Unanswered Question,
is subtitled 'A Contemplation of Something Serious'. It was written in 1906
along with a companion piece, Central Park in the Good Old Summer Time,
which was subtitled 'A contemplation of Nothing Serious'. In The Unanswered
Question, the conductor is told to cue in various parts of the orchestra
at will, a revolutionary concept indeed at that time. Random sound sculpting
was an outrageous idea at that time.
In several of the orchestral works, the memory of those town bands playing
different marches in different keys and tempi is vividly portrayed.
Such real life experiences were a far greater stimulus to composition than
all the sponsoring, 'prizes' and general acceptance of which anyone could
Ives was the quintessential Yankee. He was original, experimental, eccentric,
reclusive, and not one to allow outsiders to tell him what to do.
Copyright © 8 March 2001
Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA
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