Author Topic: George Edward Ives  (Read 11148 times)

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Offline Ugh!

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George Edward Ives
« on: September 25, 2008, 11:42:21 PM »
While the works of Charles Ives remained overlooked for quite some time, the (theoretical) works of his father George Edward Ives (who died at 49) was as interesting. Extremely open-minded, he believed in the need for balancing tradition and experiment. Besides constructing new instruments, he experimented with quarter-tone tuning, spacing instrument groups and superimposed music long long before it got in vogue - he died in 1894! At the same time, he turned his whole community on to Bach. His influence on Charles Ives' work can hardly be exaggerated.


Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2008, 10:49:46 AM »
Well, now, you raise an interesting point. as many of you know, I just finished reading "Charles Ives Reconsidered" by Gayle Sherwood Magee, and she maintains that while Ives learned a great deal about the social aspects of musical performance from his father ---  which certainly contributed to his aesthetic outlook --- his grounding in basic theory was deficient when he got to Yale. Early pieces and sketches of experimental, unfinished works show Charlie did not possess the proficiency in harmony or counterpoint he needed to write his mature music. These he acquired from Horatio Parker, and not from George, according to Gayle. George's notebooks contain little more than standard exercises written down almost verbatim from his lessons with Carl Foeppl and contain no experiments or original theories (she states).

In addition, Ives spent his early career --- up until at least 1910 --- selling himself as a student of Parker. It was only later that he incorporated his father's experimental ideas into his compositions. And of course, without the education he received from Parker, he would never have been able to notate them. It took a couple of decades for him to come full circle.

The house is crumbling, people. Get out while you can.  ;)

karlhenning

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2008, 10:53:46 AM »
In addition, Ives spent his early career --- up until at least 1910 --- selling himself as a student of Parker.

So, until he was . . .  36-ish?

Offline Guido

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2008, 10:58:53 AM »
Well, on gayle's view, why should we even believe that his father was at all interested in quarter tones, bitonality etc. etc.? Are there any written records that indiciate this behaviour, beyond Charles' own testimony? Since Ives seems to have become such a compulsive liar in her vision of his pysche, why not say that he was just lying about this too?
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Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2008, 12:11:38 PM »
Well, on gayle's view, why should we even believe that his father was at all interested in quarter tones, bitonality etc. etc.? Are there any written records that indiciate this behaviour, beyond Charles' own testimony? Since Ives seems to have become such a compulsive liar in her vision of his pysche, why not say that he was just lying about this too?

Let's not be bitter. Perhaps I haven't given the whole picture. Gayle doesn't say George's experiments weren't real. What she does say is that they were practical. George monkeyed around with real live musicans playing real live instruments. There was little or no theory behind his shenanigans, and nothing a budding composer could have adapted to a finished composition without further training. For George, music was primarily a social activity (according to Gayle), and it is this attitude accounts for his precept, as quoted by Charlie, that if you pay too much attention to the notes, you'll miss the music. As for what Charles had to say about his father years after the fact, much of it does seem mythologized, if not outright suspect. It seems that Ives used his father as a kind of foil to express his own opinions contra the dadnified European tradtion he came to oppose. None of this is to say Ives did not find inspiration in his father's attitudes.

Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2008, 12:48:36 PM »
So, until he was . . .  36-ish?

Well, 36-ish was kind of old for him, at least in terms of his career. He left music as a profession in 1902 after the premier of his little cantata, The Celestial Country, and in advertising the concert, he sold himself as a student of Parker. In 1910, Walter Damrosch read through the last three movements of the First Symphony in rehearsal with the New York Symphony (rival of the NYPO), and Gayle speculates he agreed to do it only (or largely) because of the Parker connection. (Why else do a favor for an unknown?) Parker and Damrosch were friends, and indeed, Parker was the big man on the American music scene at that time, at least among composers.

The point is, according to Gayle, that Ives began discounting his debt to Parker only after dropping Parker's name no longer helped promote his music.   

Sorry, Karl, I missed this question.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2008, 01:17:46 PM by Joe Barron »

karlhenning

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2008, 01:00:08 PM »
The point is, according to Gayle, that Ives began discouting his debt to Parker only after dropping Parker's name no longer helped promote his music.

That's reasonable;  I just don't know that there are evil undercurrents to this (implied by Gayle?).

Quote from: Joe
Sorry, Karl, I missed this question.

No worries, Joe!

Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2008, 01:12:23 PM »
That's reasonable;  I just don't know that there are evil undercurrents to this (implied by Gayle?).

Perhaps not evil, but as I say in my review, he does come off as something of an ingrate, especially since, as Gayle points out, Parker thought enough of him to let him into his free composition class. Parker kept enrollment in the class low and let in only those students he believed showed talent.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2008, 01:19:11 PM by Joe Barron »

Offline Ugh!

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2008, 11:22:08 PM »
according to Gayle. George's notebooks contain little more than standard exercises written down almost verbatim from his lessons with Carl Foeppl and contain no experiments or original theories (she states).


Well now, while there is some truth to that, it is not entirely accurate. His lessons with Foeppl, as recorded in his notebooks do not contain experiments or original theories. That may indicate, among other possibilities, that it was not Foeppl that influenced him to experiment and bend rules. There are, fortunately other manuscripts that do contain reference to experiments and original theories. To my knowledge, at least there is an incomplete pedagogical article on musical theory, as well as a letter which was partly transcribed by C.I. that support the image of George Ives as an experimentalist balanced by tradition.

At the outset, the former also contain the sort of traditional musical theory he had learned from Foeppl, but in his remarks, he encourages an experimental attitude. For instance, when discussing consonance and dissonance, he flexibly asserted that what is accepted as consonant and dissonant is a matter of habit. In the latter letter, quoted in C.Ives' Memos, he writes that

Quote
"I am fully convinced [that], if music not be allowed to grow, if it's denied the privilege of evolution that all other arts and life have, if [in the] natural processes of ear and mind it is not allowed [to] grow bigger by finding possibilities that nature has for music, more and wider scales, new combinations of tone, new keys and more keys and beats, and phrases together-if it just sticks (as it does today) to one key, one single and easy rhythm, and the rules made to boss them- then music, before many years, cannot be composed-everything will be used up-endless repetitions of static melodies, harmonies, resolutions, and metres - and music as a creative art will die - for to compose will be but to manufacture conventionalized MUSH - and that's about what student composers are being taught to do."

These manuscripts were first published in :
Eiseman, D. (1975) George Ives as Theorist: Some Unpublished Documents. Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Autumn - Winter, 1975), pp. 139-147

Certainly, they would have been available to Gayle had she bothered to do proper research....

Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2008, 06:20:31 AM »
Certainly, they would have been available to Gayle had she bothered to do proper research....

Perhaps. :)

Thanks for your insights. I have just downloaded and printed Carol Baron's article on George's essay, which may be purchased online here. It includes the complete text of George's essay, annotated. I'll get back to you when I've read the whole thing
« Last Edit: September 30, 2008, 06:28:20 AM by Joe Barron »

Offline Guido

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2008, 08:42:45 AM »
Perhaps. :)

Thanks for your insights. I have just downloaded and printed Carol Baron's article on George's essay, which may be purchased online here. It includes the complete text of George's essay, annotated. I'll get back to you when I've read the whole thing

The article is fascinating - I just reread it, but remember reading it before. Does Gayle include it in her bibliography?

The Solomon article is almost univerally seen as an embarrassment to both camps of Ives historians
Geologist.

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Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2008, 09:47:24 AM »
The article is fascinating - I just reread it, but remember reading it before. Does Gayle include it in her bibliography?

The Solomon article is almost univerally seen as an embarrassment to both camps of Ives historians

I'm embarrassed myself to admit this, but I have never read Solomon's article. I should download it from JSTOR. Unfortunately, Carol Baron's own essay on the dating of Ives's scores is also available online. I should get them both when I can spare twenty-eight dollars.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2008, 11:08:45 AM by Joe Barron »

Offline Guido

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2008, 11:00:33 AM »
Oops I've just realised that I read a different essay to the one you mentioned!  :-[

Here's the one I was referring to: http://www.jstor.org/pss/833341
Geologist.

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Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2008, 11:07:27 AM »
Oops I've just realised that I read a different essay to the one you mentioned!  :-[

Here's the one I was referring to: http://www.jstor.org/pss/833341

Yeah, that's the one I'm looking for. Did you manage to download it from JSTOR, and if so, how?

Offline Guido

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2008, 12:37:21 PM »
because I'm a member of Cambridge university I can access anything on Jstor for free.
Geologist.

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Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2008, 02:31:13 PM »
because I'm a member of Cambridge university I can access anything on Jstor for free.

mist

Offline Ugh!

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2008, 12:19:13 AM »
Oops I've just realised that I read a different essay to the one you mentioned!  :-[

Here's the one I was referring to: http://www.jstor.org/pss/833341

I don't get it - there is nothing in Baron's article that Eiseman didn't already discuss more fully concerning George Ives - or are you mixing up threads here ?  ;)

Offline Guido

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2008, 12:30:08 AM »
I don't get it - there is nothing in Baron's article that Eiseman didn't already discuss more fully concerning George Ives - or are you mixing up threads here ?  ;)

Yes the Baron article I was reading was about Ives catalogue dating, rather than George Ives.
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Joe Barron

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2008, 05:32:09 PM »
Well, on Gayle's view, why should we even believe that his father was at all interested in quarter tones, bitonality etc. etc.? Are there any written records that indicate this behaviour, beyond Charles' own testimony? Since Ives seems to have become such a compulsive liar in her vision of his psyche, why not say that he was just lying about this too?

This does indeed seem to be Solomon's view. In his essay, "Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity," he write, quoting Burkholder , that in all the public information regarding George and his career, "There is not a word about [his supposed] investigations into polytonality, microtones, new chords and scales or other basic materials of music." Indeed, as Gayle points out, Ives the son did not  exhibit any interest in quarter tones until the mid-twenties, when his modernist phase was well underway. Again, if Ives was inspired by his father, the inspiration seems somethat delayed.

Quote from: UGH!
"I am fully convinced [that], if music not be allowed to grow, if it's denied the privilege of evolution that all other arts and life have, if [in the] natural processes of ear and mind it is not allowed [to] grow bigger by finding possibilities that nature has for music, more and wider scales, new combinations of tone, new keys and more keys and beats, and phrases together-if it just sticks (as it does today) to one key, one single and easy rhythm, and the rules made to boss them- then music, before many years, cannot be composed-everything will be used up-endless repetitions of static melodies, harmonies, resolutions, and metres - and music as a creative art will die - for to compose will be but to manufacture conventionalized MUSH - and that's about what student composers are being taught to do."
These manuscripts were first published in :
Eiseman, D. (1975) George Ives as Theorist: Some Unpublished Documents. Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Autumn - Winter, 1975), pp. 139-147

Certainly, they would have been available to Gayle had she bothered to do proper research....

I have now read George's essay, and I have to say I can't see how it would serve as an inspiration to Charlie's aesthatic philosophy or to his greatest music. George does say that 7ths can sound consonant once we get used to them, but it's a passing observation, and hardly a radical one. For the most part, the essay deals with basic chord progressions and the inadequacy of notation.

As for George's letter, quoted above, our only source for it is the Memos. The original is lost, and there is some question about where the quotation ends and Charlie's own gloss on it begins. In the Memos, Kirkpatrick places closed quotes just before these words, which would make the entire passage Charlie's. Carol Baron thinks it likely that the words are George's, in part because the closed quotes do  not appear in Charlie's manuscript, but I have my doubts. It seems unlikely that George would care much about "what student composers are being taught to do," since he wasn't a student composer and the state of composition pedagogy and the future of composition wouldn't have been an issue for him. (Charlie didn't enroll in any composition classes until two years after George had died.) In that one, long, rambling sentence,  I read Charlie's own justification of the path he took.

The sources you name were available to Gayle, and Carol Baron's article on George's essay does appear in her source list. I gather she did not think it important enough to alter her thesis. She does give George credit for practical experiments: she merely questions the extent of George's contribution to Charlie's education as a composer.

I'm not saying she's right and everyone else is wrong, but only that the matter is complex and problematic. As I've said to Guido privately, I doubt Gayle's book will be the last word. And as iive said publicly,the more I read about Ives, the more confused I become. (No wiseacre comments, please, Karl.)
« Last Edit: October 06, 2008, 07:34:16 AM by Joe Barron »

Offline Ugh!

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Re: George Edward Ives
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2008, 12:20:19 AM »
This does indeed seem to be Solomon's view. In his essay, "Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity," he write, quoting Burkholder , that in all the public information regarding George and his career, "There is not a word about [his supposed] investigations into polytonality, microtones, new chords and scales or other basic materials of music." Indeed, as Gayle points out, Ives the son did not  exhibit any interest in quarter tones until the mid-twenties, when his modernist phase was well underway. Again, if Ives was inspired by his father, the inspiration seems somethat delayed.

I have now read George's essay, and I have to say I can't see how it would serve as an inspiration to Charlie's aesthatic philosophy or to his greatest music. George does say that 7ths can sound consonant once we get used to them, but it's a passiong observation, and hardly a radical one. For the most part, the essay deals with basic chord progressions and the inadequacy of notation.

As for George's letter, quoted above, our only source for it is the Memos. The original is lost, and there is some question about where the quotation ends and Charlie's own gloss on it begins. In the Memos, Kirkpatrick places closed quotes just before these words, which would make the entire passage Charlie's. Carol Baron thinks it likely that the words are George's, in part because the closed quotes do  not appear in Charlie's manuscript, but I have my doubts. It seems unlikely that George would care much about "what student composers are being taught to do," since he wasn't a student composer and the state of compostion pedagogy and the future of composition wouldn't have been an issue for him. (Charlie didn't enroll in any composition classes until two years after George had died.) In that one, long, rambling sentence,  I read Charlie's own justification of the path he took.

I will have to agree with you that there is a danger in reading too much into George's short essay. However it does reveal an experimental attitude towards traditional theory, which he may have had limited knowledge about to be fair. Also, the essay is addressed to students of musical theory - it is a pedagogical essay which hints that he at least showed interest in the state of music pedagogy, although not explicitly composition pedagogy.

In any event, it is the practical experiments with sound, such as the "humanophone" and the superimposed marching bands that most clearly reveal the experimental nature of George Ives. In the latter case, polytonality and polyrythm would have been the inevitable outcome. In Memos, Charles also lists George's experiments with micro-tones: a slide cornet, glasses, de-tuned piano and violin strings stretched over a clothes press and let down with weights. There are also clear references to experiments with tone clusters (piano drumming) - but then again all children who bang on the piano should be credited as independent inventors of tone clusters...

I am not inclined to assume that Charles Ives made all those experiments up. But I will have to agree with the conclusion that it is an exaggeration to say that George's teaching was paramount on Charles, as Cowell and others will have us believe. But then again, I am personally more interested in the marching band experiments and humanophone of George than in any of Charles' compositions...