Charles Edward Ives (/aɪvz/; October 20, 1874 – May 19, 1954) was an American modernist composer, being one of the first American composers of international renown. Previously, his music was largely ignored during his life, and many of his works went unperformed for many years, but later the quality of his music was recognized and he came to be regarded as an "American original". He was also among the first composers to engage in a systematic program of experimental music, with musical techniques including polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatory elements, and quarter tones. His experimentation foreshadowed many musical innovations that were later more widely adopted during the 20th century. Hence, he is often regarded as the leading American composer of art music of the 20th century.
As noted, sources of Ives' tonal imagery are hymn tunes and traditional songs; he also incorporated melodies of the town band at holiday parade, the fiddlers at Saturday night dances, patriotic songs, sentimental parlor ballads, and the melodies of Stephen Foster.
|Birth name||Charles Edward Ives|
|Born||October 20, 1874|
|Died||May 19, 1954 (aged 79)|
New York City
|Occupation(s)||composer, insurance agent|
Ives was born in Danbury, Connecticut, on October 20, 1874, the son of George (Edward) Ives (August 3, 1845 – November 4, 1894), a U.S. Army bandleader in the American Civil War, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Parmelee) Ives (January 2, 1849 or 1850 – January 25, 1929). The Iveses were one of Danbury’s leading families, and they were prominent in business and civic improvement and active in social causes, such as the abolition of slavery.
George Ives directed bands, choirs, and orchestras, and taught music theory and a number of instruments. Charles got his influences by sitting in the Danbury town square and listening to his father's marching band and other bands on other sides of the square simultaneously. His father has taught him and his brother (Joseph) Moss Ives music (February 5, 1876 – April 8, 1939), teaching harmony and counterpoint and guided his first compositions; George took an open-minded approach to theory, encouraging him to experiment in bitonal and polytonal harmonizations. It was from him that Ives also learned the music of Stephen Foster. He became a church organist at the age of 14 and wrote various hymns and songs for church services, including his Variations on "America", which he wrote for a Fourth of July concert in Brewster, New York. It is considered challenging even by modern concert organists, but he famously spoke of it as being "as much fun as playing baseball", a commentary on his own organ technique at that age.
Ives moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 1893, enrolling in the Hopkins School, where he captained the baseball team. In September 1894, Ives entered Yale University, studying under Horatio Parker. Here he composed in a choral style similar to his mentor, writing church music and even an 1896 campaign song for William McKinley. On November 4, 1894, his father died, a crushing blow to him, but to a large degree he continued the musical experimentation he had begun with him. His brother Moss later became a lawyer.
At Yale, Ives was a prominent figure; he was a member of HeBoule, Delta Kappa Epsilon (Phi chapter) and Wolf's Head Society, and sat as chairman of the Ivy Committee. He enjoyed sports at Yale and played on the varsity American football team. Michael C. Murphy, his coach, once remarked that it was a "crying shame" that he spent so much time at music as otherwise he could have been a champion sprinter. His works Calcium Light Night and Yale-Princeton Football Game show the influence of college and sports on Ives' composition. He wrote his Symphony No. 1 as his senior thesis under Parker's supervision.
Ives continued his work as a church organist until May 1902. Soon after he graduated from Yale in 1898, he started work in the actuarial department of the Mutual Life Insurance company of New York. In 1899, Ives moved to employment with the insurance agency Charles H. Raymond & Co., where he stayed until 1906. In 1907, upon the failure of Raymond & Co., he and his friend Julian Myrick formed their own insurance agency Ives & Co., which later became Ives & Myrick, where he remained until he retired. During his career as an insurance executive and actuary, Ives devised creative ways to structure life-insurance packages for people of means, which laid the foundation of the modern practice of estate planning. His Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax, published in 1918, was well received. As a result of this he achieved considerable fame in the insurance industry of his time, with many of his business peers surprised to learn that he was also a composer. In his spare time he composed music and, until his marriage, worked as an organist in Danbury and New Haven as well as Bloomfield, New Jersey and New York City.
In 1907, Ives suffered the first of several "heart attacks" (as he and his family called them) that he had throughout his life. These attacks may have been psychological in origin rather than physical. Following his recovery from the 1907 attack, Ives entered into one of the most creative periods of his life as a composer.
Ives had a remarkably successful career in insurance. He also continued to be a prolific composer until he suffered another of several heart attacks in 1918, after which he composed very little. He wrote his last piece, the song "Sunrise", in August 1926. In 1922, Ives published his 114 Songs, which represents the breadth of his work as a composer—it includes art songs, songs he wrote as a teenager and young man, and highly dissonant songs such as "The Majority."
According to his wife, one day in early 1927 Ives came downstairs with tears in his eyes. He could compose no more, he said; "nothing sounds right." There have been numerous theories advanced to explain the silence of his late years. It seems as mysterious as the last several decades of the life of Jean Sibelius, who stopped composing at almost the same time. While Ives had stopped composing, and was increasingly plagued by health problems, he continued to revise and refine his earlier work, as well as oversee premieres of his music.
After continuing health problems, including diabetes, in 1930 he retired from his insurance business. Although he had more time to devote to music, he was unable to write any new music. During the 1940s he revised his Concord Sonata, publishing it in 1947 (an earlier version of the sonata and the accompanying prose volume, Essays Before a Sonata were privately printed in 1920).
Ives died of a stroke in 1954 in New York City. His widow, who died in 1969 at age 92, bequeathed the royalties from his music to the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the Charles Ives Prize.
Ives' career and dedication to music began when he started playing drums in his father's band at a young age. Ives published a large collection of songs, many of which had piano parts. He composed two string quartets and other works of chamber music, though he is now best known for his orchestral music. His work as an organist led him to write Variations on "America" in 1891, which he premiered at a recital celebrating the Fourth of July.
In 1906, Ives composed the first radical musical work of the twentieth century, "Central Park in the Dark". He composed two symphonies, as well as "The Unanswered Question" (1908), written for the unusual combination of trumpet, four flutes, and string quartet. "The Unanswered Question" was influenced by the New England writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Around 1910, Ives began composing his most accomplished works, including the Holiday Symphony and Three Places in New England. The Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., known as the Concord Sonata, was one of his most remarkable pieces. He started work on this in 1911 and completed most of it in 1915. However, it was not until 1920 that the piece was published. His revised version was not released until 1947. This piece contains one of the most striking examples of his experimentation. In the second movement, he instructed the pianist to use a 14 3⁄4 in (37 cm) piece of wood to create a massive cluster chord. The piece also amply demonstrates Ives' fondness for musical quotation: the opening bars of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 are quoted in each movement. Sinclair's catalogue also notes less obvious quotations of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata and various other works.
Another remarkable piece of orchestral music Ives completed was his Fourth Symphony. He worked on this from 1910 to 1916. This symphony is notable for its complexity and over-sized orchestra. It has four movements. A complete performance was not given until 1965 (i.e. half a century after it was completed and over a decade after Ives's death).
Ives left behind material for an unfinished Universe Symphony, which he was unable to complete despite two decades of work. This was due to his health problems as well as his shifting ideas of the work.
Ives' music was largely ignored during his life, particularly during the years in which he actively composed. Many of his published works went unperformed even many years after his death in 1954. However, his reputation in more recent years has greatly increased. The Juilliard School commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of his death by performing his music over six days in 2004. His musical experiments, including his increasing use of dissonance, were not well received by his contemporaries. The difficulties in performing the rhythmic complexities in his major orchestral works made them daunting challenges even decades after they were composed.
Early supporters of Ives' music included Henry Cowell, Elliott Carter, and Aaron Copland. Cowell's periodical New Music published a substantial number of Ives' scores (with his approval). But for nearly 40 years, Ives had few performances of his music that he did not personally arrange or financially back. He generally used Nicolas Slonimsky as the conductor. After seeing a copy of Ives's self-published 114 Songs during the 1930s, Copland published a newspaper article praising the collection.
Ives began to acquire some public recognition during the 1930s, with performances of a chamber orchestra version of his Three Places in New England, both in the U.S. and on tour in Europe by conductor Nicolas Slonimsky. New York Town Hall premiered his Concord Sonata in 1939, featuring pianist John Kirkpatrick. This received favorable commentary in the major New York newspapers. Later, around the time of Ives' death in 1954, Kirkpatrick teamed with soprano Helen Boatwright for the first extended recorded recital of Ives' songs for the obscure Overtone label (Overtone Records catalog number 7). They recorded a new selection of songs for the Ives Centennial Collection that Columbia Records published in 1974.
In the 1940s, Ives met Lou Harrison, a fan of his music who began to edit and promote it. Most notably, Harrison conducted the premiere of the Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting (1904) in 1946. The next year, it won Ives the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He gave the prize money away (half of it to Harrison), saying "prizes are for boys, and I'm all grown up".
Ives was a generous financial supporter of twentieth century music, often financing works that were written by other composers. This he did in secret, telling his beneficiaries that his wife wanted him to do so. Nicolas Slonimsky said in 1971, "He financed my entire career."
At this time, Ives was also promoted by Bernard Herrmann, who worked as a conductor at CBS and in 1940 became principal conductor of the CBS Symphony Orchestra. While there, he championed Ives's music. When they met, Herrmann confessed that he had tried his hand at performing the Concord Sonata. Remarkably, Ives, who avoided the radio and the phonograph, agreed to make a series of piano recordings from 1933 to 1943. One of the more unusual recordings, made in New York City in 1943, features Ives playing the piano and singing the words to his popular World War I song "They Are There!", which he composed in 1917. He revised it in 1942–43 for World War II.
Recognition of Ives' music steadily increased. He received praise from Arnold Schoenberg, who regarded him as a monument to artistic integrity, and from the New York School of William Schuman. Shortly after Schoenberg's death (three years before Ives died), his widow found a note written by her husband. The note had originally been written in 1944 when Schoenberg was living in Los Angeles and teaching at UCLA. It said:
There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn [sic]. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.
Ives reportedly also won the admiration of Gustav Mahler, who said that he was a true musical revolutionary. Mahler was said to have talked of premiering Ives' Third Symphony with the New York Philharmonic, but he died in 1911 before conducting this premiere. The source of this account was Ives; since Mahler died, there was no way to verify whether he had seen the score of the symphony or decided to perform it in the 1911–12 season. Ives regularly attended New York Philharmonic concerts and probably heard Mahler conduct the Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall.
In 1951, Leonard Bernstein conducted the world premiere of Ives' Second Symphony in a broadcast concert by the New York Philharmonic. The Iveses heard the performance on their cook's radio and were amazed at the audience's warm reception to the music. Bernstein continued to conduct Ives's music and made a number of recordings with the Philharmonic for Columbia Records. He honored Ives on one of his televised youth concerts and in a special disc included with the reissue of the 1960 recording of the Second Symphony and the "Fourth of July" movement from Ives' Holiday Symphony.
Another pioneering Ives recording, undertaken during the 1950s, was the first complete set of the four violin sonatas, performed by Minneapolis Symphony concertmaster Rafael Druian and John Simms. Leopold Stokowski took on Symphony No. 4 in 1965, regarding the work as "the heart of the Ives problem". The Carnegie Hall world premiere by the American Symphony Orchestra led to the first recording of the music. Another promoter of his was choral conductor Gregg Smith, who made a series of recordings of his shorter works during the 1960s. These included the first stereo recordings of the psalm settings and arrangements of many short pieces for theater orchestra. The Juilliard String Quartet recorded the two string quartets during the 1960s.
In the early 21st century, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is an enthusiastic exponent of Ives' symphonies, as is composer and biographer Jan Swafford. Ives's work is regularly programmed in Europe. He has also inspired pictorial artists, most notably Eduardo Paolozzi, who entitled one of his 1970s sets of prints Calcium Light Night, each print being named for an Ives piece (including Central Park in the Dark). In 1991, Connecticut's legislature designated Ives as that state's official composer.
The Scottish baritone Henry Herford began a survey of Ives' songs in 1990, but this remains incomplete. The record company involved (Unicorn-Kanchana) collapsed. Pianist-composer and Wesleyan University professor Neely Bruce has made a life's study of Ives. To date, he has staged seven parts of a concert series devoted to the complete songs of Ives. Musicologist David Gray Porter reconstructed a piano concerto, the "Emerson" Concerto, from Ives' sketches. A recording of the work was released by Naxos Records.
American singer and composer Frank Zappa included Charles Ives in a list of influences that he presented in the liner notes of his debut album Freak Out! (1966). Ives continues to influence contemporary composers, arrangers and musicians. Planet Arts Records released Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra. Ives befriended and encouraged a young Elliott Carter. In addition, Phil Lesh, bassist of the Grateful Dead, has described Ives as one of his two musical heroes.
The Unanswered Ives – Pioneer in American Music was completed as an hour-long film documentary directed by Anne-Kathrin Peitz and produced by Accentus Music (Leipzig, Germany). This was released in 2018 and shown on Swedish and German television stations; it features interviews with Jan Swafford, John Adams, James Sinclair and Jack Cooper.
Note: Because Ives often made several different versions of the same piece, and because his work was generally ignored during his life, it is often difficult to put exact dates on his compositions. The dates given here are sometimes best guesses. There have also been controversial speculations that he purposely misdated his own pieces earlier or later than actually written.
Ives proposed in 1920 that there be a 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would authorize citizens to submit legislative proposals to Congress. Members of Congress would then cull the proposals, selecting 10 each year as referendums for popular vote by the nation's electorate. He even had printed at his own expense several thousand copies of a pamphlet on behalf of his proposed amendment. The pamphlet proclaimed the need to curtail "THE EFFECTS OF TOO MUCH POLITICS IN OUR representative DEMOCRACY". His proposal joined his music in being ignored during his life.
It is stated in the biographical film A Good Dissonance Like a Man that the first of Ives' crippling heart attacks occurred as a result of a World War I era argument with a young Franklin D. Roosevelt over his idea of issuing of war bonds in amounts as low as $50 each. Roosevelt was chairman of a war bonds committee on which Ives served, and he "scorned the idea of anything so useless as a $50 bond". Roosevelt changed his mind about small contributions as seen many years later when he endorsed the March of Dimes to combat poliomyelitis.
Central Park in the Dark is a music composition by Charles Ives for chamber orchestra. It was composed in 1906 and has been paired with The Unanswered Question as part of "Two Contemplations" and with Hallowe'en and The Pond in "Three Outdoor Scenes".Charles Ives House
The Charles Ives House, also known as Charles Ives Birthplace, is located on Mountainville Avenue in Danbury, Connecticut, United States. It is a wooden frame structure built in 1780 and expanded on since. Over the course of the 19th century it was the residence of several generations of Iveses, a family important in the city's history. In 1874 it was the birthplace of Charles Ives, who became an internationally recognized composer in the early 20th century.
It was originally on Main Street, but was moved twice when two local banks needed to expand. The second move took it to near the current location, west of Rogers Park. It was moved a third time to allow for the construction of a nearby school. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Today it is owned by the Danbury Museum and Historical Society, which is seeking to restore it and reopen it as a museum.Charles Ives Prize
The Charles Ives Awards are scholarships for young composers, awarded annually by the American Academy of Arts and Letters: six scholarships of $7,500, and two fellowships of $15,000. In 1998, the Academy inaugurated the Charles Ives Living, a 2-year, $200,000 award, and in 2008 awarded the inaugural Charles Ives Opera Prize of $50,000.Ives, Songs
Ives, Songs is a ballet made by New York City Ballet ballet master Jerome Robbins to songs of Charles Ives:
The premiere took place on February 4, 1988 at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, with scenery by David Mitchell, costumes by Florence Klotz and lighting by Jennifer Tipton. The singer was Timothy Nolen and the pianist Gordon Boelzner. Other works to the music of Ives in the City Ballet repertory include Peter Martins' Calcium Light Night, George Balanchine's Ivesiana and Eliot Feld's The Unanswered Question.Ives (crater)
Ives is a crater on Mercury. It has a diameter of 20 kilometers. Its name was adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1979. Ives is named for the American composer Charles Ives, who lived from 1874 to 1954.Ivesiana
Ivesiana is a ballet made by New York City Ballet co-founder and ballet master George Balanchine to Charles Ives' Central Park in the Dark (1906), The Unanswered Question (1906), In the Inn (1904-06?), and In the Night (1906) shortly after the composer's death. The premiere took place September 14, 1954, at the City Center of Music and Drama. Other works to the music of Ives in the City Ballet repertory include Peter Martins' Calcium Light Night, Jerome Robbins' Ives, Songs and Eliot Feld's The Unanswered Question.Joseph Schwantner
Joseph Clyde Schwantner (born March 22, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer, educator and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 2002. He was awarded the 1970 Charles Ives Prize.Schwantner is prolific, with many works to his credit. His style is coloristic and eclectic, drawing on such diverse elements as French impressionism, African drumming, and minimalism. His orchestral work Aftertones of Infinity received the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Music.List of compositions by Charles Ives
The compositions of American composer Charles Ives (1874–1954) are mostly modern classical music. Documenting his list of works is especially difficult, because he had a tendency not to date his works, or misdate them for some unknown reason. Additionally, he was very prolific, revised works multiple times, and left ambiguous fragments with no title or notes.My Father Knew Charles Ives
My Father Knew Charles Ives is an orchestral triptych by the American composer John Adams. The work was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony. It was first performed by the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall on April 30, 2003.Peter Lieberson
Peter Lieberson (October 25, 1946 – April 23, 2011) was an American classical composer.Piano Sonata No. 2 (Ives)
The Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840–60 (commonly known as the Concord Sonata) is a piano sonata by Charles Ives. It is one of the composer's best-known and most highly regarded pieces. A typical performance of the piece lasts around 45 minutes.Psalm 90 (Ives)
Psalm 90 is a musical composition by the American composer and insurance executive Charles Ives, written in 1923–24.Songs My Mother Taught Me (Charles Ives song)
"Songs My Mother Taught Me" is the title of a song for voice and piano, written by Charles Ives (S. 361, K. 6B21c) in 1895 and set to a poem by Adolf Heyduk.
Ives' song was written some fifteen years after Dvořák's setting of the same poem. New York City Ballet balletmaster Jerome Robbins used it for one of the dances he made in Ives, Songs.Symphony No. 2 (Ives)
The Second Symphony was written by Charles Ives between 1897 and 1902. It consists of five movements and lasts approximately 40 minutes.Symphony No. 3 (Ives)
The Symphony No. 3, S. 3 (K. 1A3), The Camp Meeting by Charles Ives (1874–1954) was written between 1908 and 1910. In 1947, the symphony was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Ives is reported to have given half the money to Lou Harrison, who conducted the premiere.Symphony No. 4 (Ives)
Charles Ives's Symphony No. 4, S. 4 (K. 1A4) was written between 1910 and the mid-1920s (the second movement "Comedy" was the last to be composed, most likely in 1924). The symphony is notable for its multilayered complexity—typically requiring two conductors in performance—and for its large and varied orchestration. Combining elements and techniques of Ives's previous compositional work, this has been called "one of his most definitive works"; Ives' biographer, Jan Swafford, has called it "Ives's climactic masterpiece".The Unanswered Question
The Unanswered Question is a musical work by American composer Charles Ives. Originally paired with Central Park in the Dark as Two Contemplations in 1908, The Unanswered Question was revived by Ives in 1930–1935. As with many of Ives' works, it was largely unknown until much later in his life, and was not performed until 1946.
Against a background of slow, quiet strings representing "The Silence of the Druids", a solo trumpet poses "The Perennial Question of Existence", to which a woodwind quartet of "Fighting Answerers" tries vainly to provide an answer, growing more frustrated and dissonant until they give up. The three groups of instruments perform in independent tempos and are placed separately on the stage—the strings offstage.The Unanswered Question (ballet)
The Unanswered Question: Some Intimations of the American Composer Charles Ives is a ballet made by Eliot Feld to Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, Calcium Light Night, Fugue in Four Keys, Mists, From the Housatonic at Stockbridge, Sonata No. 2 for Piano and Violin (In the Barn), Remembrance and An Old Song Deranged. The premiere took place April 30, 1988, at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, as part of New York City Ballet's American Music Festival with lighting by the Feld Ballet's Allen Lee Hughes and Willa Kim's costumes. Other works to the music of Ives in the City Ballet repertory include Peter Martins' Calcium Light Night, Jerome Robbins' Ives, Songs and George Balanchine's Ivesiana.
|Named for Ives|
List of compositions by Charles Ives Category:Compositions by Charles Ives
Pulitzer Prize for Music (1943–1950)