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<<  -- 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 days'.

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 ever dream.

Ives was the quintessential Yankee. He was original, experimental, eccentric, reclusive, and not one to allow outsiders to tell him what to do.

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Copyright © 8 March 2001 Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA




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