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The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: Joe Barron on September 15, 2008, 04:19:09 PM

Title: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 15, 2008, 04:19:09 PM
Unsettling portrait of an American not-so-original

Charles Ives Reconsidered by Gayle Sherwood Magee. U. of Illinois Press, 2008. 238 pp. $35.

I can think of no composer who has been damaged by musicologists in the past few years as much as Charles Ives, and I was waiting eagerly for Gayle Sherwood Magee's new book, Charles Ives Reconsidered, to set the record straight. At last, I thought, someone was going to speak up for him with the weight of scholarship behind her.

Ives's stock crashed in 1987, when Maynard Solomon published a paper in The Journal of the American Musicological Society, titled "Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity," in which he charged that Ives deliberately backdated his scores to appear more of a musical innovator than he actually was. Solomon took as his starting point Elliott Carter's notorious, damning review of the Concord Sonata, which suggested that Ives might not be a true prophet.

"The fuss that critics make about Ives's innovations is, I think, exaggerated," Carter wrote, "for he has rewritten his works so many times, adding dissonances and polyrhythms, that it is probably impossible to tell just at what date the works assumed the surprising form we know now. The accepted dates of publication are most likely those of the compositions in their final state."

In later interviews, Carter recalled visiting Ives in his home in the late 1920s and watching him revise his scores to, in his phrase, jack up the level of dissonance. But Carter never accused Ives of dishonesty. In his review of the Concord, he specifically faults critics. It was up to Solomon to take the next step. He accused Ives of a "systematic pattern of falsification," backdating his scores and lying about just when certain of his were written.

The cry of protest from Ives specialists was immediate and loud, but like the truth about Sarah Palin and the bridge to nowhere, it could not stamp out the growing narrative. Almost every CD of Ives's music released in the decade after Solomon's article appeared contained, in its program notes, a reference to the chronology scandal, inevitably followed by a lame comment that is really didn't matter. (Carter made the same point in his review, but that part of the controversy seemed to disappear, and in any event, saying that the chronology doesn't matter is just a polite was of admitting that Solomon was right. If he was wrong, we wouldn't need irrelevance as a fallback position.)

Scholars such as Peter Burkholder and Philip Lambert defended Ives's integrity and originality, but only Gayle Sherwood Magee, a doctoral candidate at Yale (now teaching at the University of Illinois), answered Solomon's challenge directly. Focusing on his choral music, she dated the paper he used, analyzed his handwriting, and found, according to Ives's biographer Jan Swafford, that Ives's own dates were more accurate than not, and indeed, some pieces were written later than Ives's dates indicates. Solomon's systematic pattern of falsification, Swafford wrote, was neither systematic, or a pattern, nor false.

So, when I learned Sherwood Magee was writing a book on Ives, I was excited. Here, at last, would be the definitive story of Ives's career, grounded on the indisputable, revised chronology of his music developed both by Sherwood Magee herself and by James Sinclair at Yale University. It would be a vindication. Well, it's a vindication all right -- mostly of of Solomon and Carter.

While Sherwood Magee does not believe that Ives backdated his scores, as Solomon contends, she does acknowledge that many of his major works evolved over a period of years, even decades, and, in the end, he usually gave the years in which he began a piece as the date of composition. Echoing Carter's epistemological doubt, she concludes on the last page of her text that "many of his most important works cut across the arc of his compositional life in complex and probably unknowable ways."

Of course, if the claims for Ives's precedence had never been made, the debunking would not have been necessary, and his honesty would never have been questioned. In Sherwood Magee's telling, the source of the claim -- and of all the subsequent trouble -- is Henry Cowell. It was Cowell who, in his early writing about Ives in the 1930s, concocted what Ives's biographer Frank Rossiter called the Ives Legend, which described a visionary working in isolation, indifferent to success, inventing the language of modernism years ahead of his European contemporaries. Cowell had an agenda, Sherwood Magee writes: he wanted to establish American precedence in 20th century music, and he found a patriarchal figure in Charles Ives. To cleanse the stain of European influence from Ives' résumé, Cowell made George Ives into the central influence of young Charlie's life and expunged from the record the indispensable lessons Ives learned from of Horatio Parker, his genial, German-trained music professor at Yale.

Ives seemed happy to go along with the charade. According to Sherwood Magee, he sensed that throwing in his lot with the up-and-coming modernists would lead to recognition and acceptance in the larger community of musicians, and he fashioned his autobiographical Memos of the early 1930s to suit Cowell's purposes. First, he gives the earliest possible dates to his major compositions. Second, he denigrates Parker's contribution to his development and even concocts a homey little parable to praise his father's open-minded experimentalism at the expense of his professor's myopic conservatism: Parker told him that he there was no excuse for an unresolved dissonance at the end of one of his songs, Ives recalled, and when he related the comment to his father, George replied that not every dissonance has to resolve, any more than every horse should have its tale bobbed in response to the prevailing  fashion.

As Sherwood Magee points out, Ives did not begin taking classes with Parker until two years after his father died. The story is impossible.

Ives thus comes off as an ingrate, an opportunist, and yes, a prevaricator. He also appears as a hypochondriac, a misogynist, a xenophobe (though largely by association), and oddly passive. In a concise 180 pages, Sherwood Magee succeeds better than any other writer I know in re-creating the musical and social atmosphere that Ives breathed, but the composer himself almost disappears under the pressure of his influences. Everything he does seems to be a reaction to something else. One can understand it in the early chapters, when, as a young musician trying to find his place in the world, Ives finds his heroes and tries on a succession of professional hats, but his extraordinary burst of creativity in the decade after 1907 remains unaccounted for. During these years, Ives was free to compose the music he wanted. He had given up the life of a professional organist for the security of the insurance business, and he did not have to write for the American market. No younger composers like Henry Cowell were recasting him in their own image.
And yet Sherwood Magee says only that this new phase, which she dubs "nationalist-militarist," was at some level a questioning of the European romantic tradition, and that his renewed interest in quoting hymn tunes might have grown from his wife's religiosity. (Ives married Harmony Twichell in 1908.) Both theories draw a positive musical progression out of a negative space.

Charles Ives certainly did not spring from the head of his father as a fully formed innovator. It is now clear his deepest, most effective work grew from years of searching and revision. The composer absorbed many influences along the way. Sherwood Magee names them all as they go by, but none of them wrote the Concord Sonata, and one of them could have. The essence the Ives phenomenon remains a mystery. Perhaps it must: no biography I have read successfully accounts for the genius of Mozart are Brahms. They are just there, virtuosos by age ten, polished composers in their early twenties. Such a rapid blossoming of talent defies social and psychological explanation.

At the end of this short but depressing ride, Sherwood Magee gives us a carnival psychic's cold-reading of Ives's character. He was, she says, "a flawed, brilliant, naïve, shrewd, insecure, compassionate, ambitious, deceitful, trusting human being" In short, a mess, but really not that much difference from any one of the rest of us.  The challenge of Ives studies in the future, she says, will be to appreciate the composers from this "unvarnished perspective."

She can count me out. After years of keeping up with the revisionism, I'm too exhausted to do much more than put on a CD of the Second String Quartet and wonder, yet again, at the miracle of the sound.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on September 15, 2008, 05:05:18 PM
Thanks for the in depth review, Joe. When you say that it was depressing do you mean by her style and her own analysis and conclusions, or has she convinced you at least partially about the falseness of some of the dates that Ives names?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 15, 2008, 05:27:30 PM
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the book wasn't the disappointment. Ives was. It's upsetting to read that after all that effort, I wasn't being clear.

My fear now is that, given the anti-modernist tendency of contemporary musical politics, some misguided musicologiusts are going to start calling for a return to the real, original, premodernist Ives, much the way some theologians think they can reconstruct some pristine, pre-Pauline Christianity, and they'll use Gayle's book as a justification. It might be only a matter of time before we start seeing so-called original versions of Ives's major pieces, with the Ives's own arbitrarily stripped away. The rationale will be that he had fallen under the Svengali-like influence of a group of self-interested modernists, and he really didn't mean it. It's already happened in the Naxos recording of Three Paces in New England, even though I point out, in my review at Amazon, the final revised version is superior. I can't imagine what might lie beneath the playful dissonances of The Fourth of July, but we might soon be forced to find out.

I'm just tired of the fighting over Ives's corpse. I might be through with him for a while.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on September 15, 2008, 05:48:25 PM
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the book wasn't the disappointment. Ives was. It's upsetting to read that after all that effort, I wasn't being clear.

My fear now is that, given the anti-modernist tendency of contemporary musical politics, some misguided musicologiusts are going to start calling for a return to the real, original, premodernist Ives, much the way some theologians think they can reconstruct some pristine, pre-Pauline Christianity, and they'll use Gayle's book as a justification. It might be only a matter of time before we start seeing so-called original versions of Ives's major pieces, with the Ives's own arbitrarily stripped away. The rationale will be that he had fallen under the Svengali-like influence of a group of self-interested modernists, and he really didn't mean it. It's already happened in the Naxos recording of Three Paces in New England, even though I point out, in my review at Amazon, the final revised version is superior. I can't imagine what might lie beneath the playful dissonances of The Fourth of July, but we might soon be forced to find out.

I'm just tired of the fighting over Ives's corpse. I might be through with him for a while.

The fault is all mine Joe... It's 3 in the morning here and I am no doubt not reading clearly. Reading it again it is obvious what you meant, and may I also say that it is heartbreaking to hear you say these things.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 16, 2008, 05:55:52 AM
I no longer think about it's authenticity regarding dates.

Well, it can't be, since that battle has been lost.

Privately, Gayle has said that Carter's observations are irrelevant, since Ives established his modernist bona fides in two works published in the early 1920s, before Carter knew him: The Concord Sonata and the 114 Songs. These two volumes, whose dates are not in dispute, contain all of the techniques and experiments Ives later incorporated into other, earlier scores. She has also said that Ives's originality is not an issue, either, since no one has written like him before or since. Unfortunately, she makes neither of these points in the book.

One point she does try to make, though, is that Ives's adoption of the modernist outlook in the 1920s led to greater and genuine creativity on his part. It was not just the absorption of a random new influence by a desperate hack who needed someone else's ideas to make his music work. In other words, it would be unfair to expect Ives to be exposed to new ideas and not be inspired by them. All great artists are open to the world around them and grow from what other have to teach them. But this seems to contradict her private statements that his mature techniques were in place by 1920. If he was a fully formed as a composer by  then, what more did he have to learn?

And please don't presume to tell me what I need to accept. I never said I wanted Ives scholarship to move in any direction. I certainly don't want to deny any evidence. All I'm saying is that I'm sick of the arguments. Gayle's book might not be the last word, but I am not looking forward to the next one.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 16, 2008, 06:09:03 AM
... and may I also say that it is heartbreaking to hear you say these things.

Well, maybe I'm not feeling as hopeless was all that. Truth is, since picking up Gayle's book I've been listening to Ives quite a bit. No amount of scholarship, it would seem, can erase  his achievement completely. After our ssussion about the Second Quartet on the other thread, I listened three different versions of that piece in two days. (And yes, the Juilliard is much better than I remembered). I also listened to that band CD you didn't like, and this morning I played a recording of the First Quartet as I was getting reasdy for work. And I've strted reading Peter Burkholder's book, All Made of Tunes, which promises to be a fun look at what Ives actually did, not what his attitudes or influences might have been.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 16, 2008, 06:14:09 AM
No amount of scholarship, it would seem, can erase his achievement completely.

'At's a strange expression, Bruce.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 16, 2008, 07:16:27 AM
'At's a strange expression, Bruce.

Well, Bruce, I heard the prime minister use it. "No amount of scholarship can erase his achievement completely, your majesty," he said, and she smiled quietly to herself.

It is a strange expression, now that I think about it. One would expect the net effect of scholarship would be to enhance appreciation. In Ives's case, the tendency seems to be in the opposite direction.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Brewski on September 16, 2008, 07:30:54 AM
No amount of scholarship, it would seem, can erase his achievement completely.

So there you go!  Whatever the dates involved, I still would never want to be without the results, i.e., his music.  And if over time his sheen as an innovator is lost--and that's "if"--the scores remain to speak for themselves.  Thanks for the interesting comments, Joe.

--Bruce
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on September 16, 2008, 07:55:49 AM
Thanks for your comments Joe - very interesting thoughts as always.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 16, 2008, 06:11:13 PM
The review now includes a couple of corrections: Solomon's article appeared in 1987, not 1989. Gayle was a graduate student at Yale when she began researching the dates of Ives's work. She now teaches at the U. of Illinois, not Indiana. We regret the errors.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 16, 2008, 06:27:57 PM
Joe,

Not that I agree with the following from  Jbuck  but it always makes me chuckle:

"I find Ives dismissable and know many other musicians who feel the same way, though every time one expresses such an opinion about a composer on this site one must be prepared to receive a verbal stoning.  Frankly, if he came from New Zealand instead of the USA, no one would take him seriously..."

And of course, slapping it gratuitously onto this thread is calculated to further the discusson and make everyone feel good about their lives and opinions.

Am I right in thinking The Ardent Pederast is actually the esteemed Eric?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 17, 2008, 05:03:12 AM
Am I right in thinking The Ardent Pederast is actually the esteemed Eric?

How could you doubt?

Can there be two people in the universe with a tag declaring their "worship [of] Debussy's gentle revolution"?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 17, 2008, 05:18:32 AM
Is the book an overview of his career, Joe?  (I need to read the Swafford, don't I?)

Oh, just one thing . . .

At the end of this short but depressing ride, Sherwood Magee gives us a carnival psychic’s cold-reading of Ives’s character. He was, she says, “a flawed, brilliant, naïve, shrewd, insecure, compassionate, ambitious, deceitful, trusting human being” In short, a mess, but really not that much difference from any one of the rest of us.

You mean, we're all brilliant?  8)

Edit :: image managed
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Homo Aestheticus on September 17, 2008, 05:57:41 AM
Karl wrote:

"Can there be two people in the universe with a tag declaring their "worship [of] Debussy's gentle revolution"?

-----

Why not Karl ?

Just remember that it's a SEMINAL masterpiece.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 17, 2008, 06:23:25 AM
Quote
Product Description

Charles Ives Reconsidered reexamines a number of critical assumptions about the life and works of this significant American composer, drawing on many new sources to explore Ives's creative activities within broader historical, social, cultural, and musical perspectives. Gayle Sherwood Magee offers the first large-scale rethinking of Ives's musical development based on the controversial revised chronology of his music. Using as a guide Ives's own dictum that "the fabric of existence weaves itself whole," Charles Ives Reconsidered offers several new paths to understanding all of Ives's music as the integrated and cohesive work of a controversial composer who was very much a product of his time and place. Magee portrays Ives's life, career and posthumous legacy against the backdrop of his musical and social environments from the Gilded Age to the present. The book includes contemporary portraits of the composer, his peers, and his teachers, as seen through archival materials, published reviews, and both historical and modern critical assessments.

"The fabric of existence weaves itself whole."  Give me a week, and maybe I'll work that one out.

Two weeks.

Curious to call Ives a composer "very much a product of his time and place";  whatever truth there is underneath that, it's also the fact that his time and place had little use for his composition.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Brewski on September 17, 2008, 06:29:21 AM
Is the book an overview of his career, Joe?  (I need to read the Swafford, don't I?)

(I'm not Joe, but... :D)  The Swafford is very good--definitely recommended if you're inclined.

--Bruce
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 17, 2008, 06:43:50 AM
(I'm not Joe, but... :D)  The Swafford is very good--definitely recommended if you're inclined.

Must be a copy at the BPL . . . that will be my treat to myself when the ballet is at last done.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 17, 2008, 07:40:47 AM
You mean, we're all brilliant?  8)

And shrewd and naive, and insecure and ambitious.  We seek friendship but cherish our solitude. We are generous and nurturing but sometimes feel we don't take care of ourselves as much as we should. 

I loved Swafford's book when I read it, but I wouldn't say it's a necessary propadeutic for Charles Ives Reconsidered. Swafford and Gayle cover much the same ground --- how could they not? --- but each has a different emphases. You'll learn things from one that you won't from the other. It's been a long time since I've read Swafford, but Gayle is better, I think, on the musical atmosphere of Ives's youth, his professional ambitions, and on the musical legacies of George Ives and Horatio Parker. Swafford gets more into Ives's personal life and offers more detailed descriptions of some of the major pieces. At times he seems more of an apologist.

Both are must reads. The point of my review is that one should be prepared for Gayle's conclusions.

Her revised chronology of Ives's music casts doubt onto one of my most cherished stories about him. It has become clear that with Ives, most dates are and always will be provisional, but Gayle states he most likely began his Third Symphony in 1910 or 1911. If this is true, it unlikely, and probably impossible, that Mahler discovered the work at the office of Ives's copyist and took the score back to Europe with him, intending to conduct it. Mahler died in May 1911. The symphony would not have been finished in time for him to see it. The story first appears in Ives's Memos. Cowell mentions it in a footnote in Charles Ives and his Music, and both Swafford and David Wooldridge elaborate on it. Wooldridge even goes so far as to contend that Mahler managed to read through the work at an orchestral rehearsal in Germany. (He says he found and spoke with one of the musicians who took part.) According to the descriptive catalog of Ives's music, (http://webtext.library.yale.edu/xml2html/Music/ci-d.htm) however, "there exists no corroborating evidence that Ives ever met Mahler or gave a score of this work c1911 to any conductor other than Walter Damrosch."

The king is dead.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 17, 2008, 07:44:55 AM
We're here for you, Joe.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 17, 2008, 07:53:26 AM
We're here for you, Joe.

Don't put me on. This has been a rough couple of days.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on September 17, 2008, 08:04:57 AM
Putting you on? Joe, do you think I would serve you thus?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on September 17, 2008, 08:10:31 AM
Putting you on? Joe, do you think I would serve you thus?

When you say things like "serve you thus," of course I do.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on December 25, 2008, 06:44:08 AM
Below is David Schiff's review of Gayles' book, which appears in the Jan. 5 issue of The Nation. Well writtan as always, but I'm not quite sure what to make of it---the review, that is.

Ives's Ears: Charles Ives Reconsidered By David Schiff

This article appeared in the January 5, 2009 edition of The Nation.

December 17, 2008

Long before his death in 1954, at 80, Charles Ives seemed less like the father of American music than an eccentric uncle whose antic behavior and uncensored opinions at birthdays and funerals conscript his relatives into manufacturing an endless series of apologies and disclaimers. In his songs, symphonies and sonatas, Ives furnished America's musical past with a future. He linked the sounds of the nineteenth century--marches and hymns and ragtime ditties--to the complex new harmonies and rhythms of modern music, and he forced their fusion with visionary zeal. He also referred to musicians he didn't respect, or who didn't respect him, as "sissies" and bewailed the feminization of American musical life. Revolted by the mixing of art and commerce, he refused to pursue a career as a musician or even to copyright his music. Although he published some of his scores, most of his work remained in a state of editorial chaos, overwritten with corrections, pentimenti, comments and instructions. And he often fudged the provenance of his compositions, claiming they were written earlier than was the case in order to appear more innovative. Ives even lied about his own father. He claimed that when he was a student at Yale in the 1890s, his father, who had been an Army bandleader during the Civil War, advised him to ignore the criticisms offered by his music professor, Horatio Parker, a musical conservative who favored the practice of tonal music enshrined in the textbooks of the day. If the anecdote were true, Ives's father would have been counseling his son from the grave.

During the past decade, the picture of Ives has metamorphosed from eccentric uncle into cagey impresario and entrepreneur, a process explained by Gayle Sherwood Magee in her aptly titled Charles Ives Reconsidered. The most striking change in Ives's image concerns the scope of his oeuvre, which was enriched by the publication in 1999 of James Sinclair's A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives. Sinclair unearthed, re-edited and assembled to completion many works long considered lost or fragmentary, such as "Ragtime Dances" and the "Third Orchestral Set." Ives heavily revised much of his music, and Sinclair culled from the revisions worthy variant readings of even familiar, frequently heard compositions. You can now purchase a recording of the Emerson Concerto, an earlier, orchestral version of the first movement of the Concord Sonata. And if you listen to the fine recording of the familiar Three Places in New England by Michael Tilson Thomas (our reigning Ives-meister) and the San Francisco Symphony, you may be surprised to hear a chorus singing in the third movement, "The Housatonic at Stockbridge." The choral melody, taken from Ives's song with the same title and already present in the symphony as an instrumental line, lifts Ives's picturesque triptych into the realm of Beethoven's Ninth--or at least into the neighborhood of Ives's Fourth Symphony, which was once considered unplayable but is now widely considered to be the crowning glory of American symphonic composition, the musical counterpart of Moby-Dick or Leaves of Grass. The recent recording of the Concord Sonata by the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard (who also accompanies Met mezzo Susan Graham in a selection of songs) is a sign that Ives's work has even found a place in the international repertory.

With Ives's oeuvre securely anchored in the musical mainstream, his life looks different. When the music seemed interesting mainly for its crackpot eccentricities and quaint country humor (the "Currier and Ives" Ives), the composer was viewed as an isolated, anachronistic character from the rural American past. In Magee's telling he seems mad like one of the Mad Men, consciously shaping his personal, professional and artistic personas in ways that would guarantee the ultimate triumph of his unique musical legacy. In retrospect, even Ives's famed eccentricity looks like a clever ploy by a master salesman who recognized that, at particular moments, nuttiness would sell. The newly reconsidered Ives made all the right moves.

Magee caps her book with a potent example of Ives's promotional cunning. In 1951, Leonard Bernstein conducted the world premiere of Ives's Second Symphony, composed between 1908 and 1910. (The score had remained unperformed even after Ives was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Third Symphony in 1947.) This accessible and good-humored work is far removed from Ives's wilder experiments and is clearly indebted to Dvorák and Brahms as well as Stephen Foster, whose melodies echo throughout all four movements. Although he conducted few other Ives compositions, Bernstein performed this symphony often, and I remember well his performance of the last movement on a Young People's Concert broadcast in April 1961. Bernstein told his audience that Charles Ives was a

salty old Yankee who lived, up to his death a few years ago, in Danbury, Connecticut.... He was also one of the first American composers to use folk songs and folk dances in his concert music.... You will also hear real barn dance tunes like "Turkey in the Straw," and real folk songs such as "Long, Long Ago," and a real Stephen Foster tune, "Camptown Races," and a real bugle call, "Reveille," and to top it all off a real quotation from that grand old American tune "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean." It all adds up to a rousing jamboree, like a Fourth of July celebration, finished off at the very end by a wild yelp of laughter made by the orchestra playing a chord of all the notes in the rainbow at once--as if to say WOW!

Like many of Ives's boosters, Bernstein tinkered with the truth to sell the music. Ives lived most of his adult life on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and he rarely quoted folk tunes: much of his music is based on the hymns he learned as a church organist in various denominations in his teens and 20s. More to the point, with the aid of Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison, Ives produced a new version of the Second Symphony for Bernstein's premiere (Ives was 76 at the time and in frail health), and the WOW! moment punctuating the end of the score was tailored to the tastes of the quintessentially WOW! conductor. Previous versions had ended in a much more predictable fashion, with a tonic triad, just as Brahms and Dvorák would have done. With the showbiz acumen of a George Abbott or a Harold Prince, and with a little help from his friends, Ives packed the ending of the Second Symphony with a jovial musical charge, like the sound of popping balloons and firecrackers, that gave the Young People's Concert the feeling of a birthday party. I was 15 at the time, and I ran out to buy the recording as soon as I could.

Magee challenges received ideas about Ives in three interconnected areas--his medical history, the dating of his compositions and the nature of his involvement with the musical marketplace--and while some of her findings are intriguing, none are explosive. Earlier accounts of Ives's life reported a series of heart attacks and nervous breakdowns that began in 1906 and had by 1920 virtually ended his work as a composer and his career as an insurance executive. Jan Swafford's colorfully written Charles Ives: A Life With Music (1996) describes the elder Ives as a victim of chronic debilitating forms of diabetes and bipolar disorder. Ives's father died of a stroke when he was 49; the fact that Ives lived to be 80 is usually credited to the ministrations of his wife, Harmony, who was a trained nurse. According to psychoanalytic studies, Ives was burdened with neuroses about his father and the question of his musical originality, and was prone to bouts of misogyny and homophobia. By 1921, such a profoundly crippled Ives would have been incapable of composing or carefully managing his reputation.

Magee rejects these diagnoses. She finds no evidence of heart attacks in the medical records and dismisses the psychoanalytic readings of Ives's character as anachronistic. Instead, she takes seriously the diagnosis offered by Ives's doctors: neurasthenia. This condition, which manifested itself in physical exhaustion and heart palpitations, was the national ailment of the Progressive Era, the downside of the "strenuous life" that Teddy Roosevelt embodied and demanded of America's ruling elite. Born into a patrician banking family, a BMOC at Yale, married into an even more distinguished New England line and a successful corporate innovator, Ives was well ensconced in the elite. Today neurasthenia is no longer an accepted medical term, but in taking it seriously Magee reveals much about Ives's privileged background (which he downplayed by crafting a rustic persona) and also the extent to which his double life, composing for four or five hours after putting in a full day at his insurance firm, was bound to take a toll. Still, her reconsideration brings no new medical evidence to the table, and consequently Ives's physical condition over the last third of his life remains a mystery, as Magee admits in the closing sentence of her book: "Understanding Ives and his music from this unvarnished perspective may yet prove the greatest challenge of all."
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: mikkeljs on December 25, 2008, 07:08:38 AM
I was also fascinated that Ives wrote his music so early, but I don´t actually don´t care. Imagining such music is easy, even if you haven´t heard it. I don´t understand why we don´t find this kind of style among Mozart at all.  :o His head must have been full of it! When I only knew about old classical music, I wrote something that sounded like Stravinsky mixed with extremely expressiv things, and I thought it was my invention too.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on December 29, 2008, 10:10:58 AM
Below is David Schiff's review of Gayles' book, which appears in the Jan. 5 issue of The Nation. Well writtan as always, but I'm not quite sure what to make of it---the review, that is.

Ives's Ears: Charles Ives Reconsidered By David Schiff

This article appeared in the January 5, 2009 edition of The Nation.

December 17, 2008

He hardly seems to be reviewing the book at all... just recounting some of the 'facts' as presented by Gayles along with some of his own ideas and general info about Ives. As to the content... we've been over that before here.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on December 29, 2008, 11:48:07 AM
He hardly seems to be reviewing the book at all... just recounting some of the 'facts' as presented by Gayles along with some of his own ideas and general info about Ives. As to the content... we've been over that before here.

Well, it turns out that review I found online is less than  half of what appears in the Jan. 5 issue of the Nation, which I found in the library.  Of course, the complete version is more ... complete.  Its also too long to retype here. Suffice to say David actually does talk more about the book and he offers his own ideas on Ives. He agrees with me that while Gayle does a good job of describing Ives's milieu, she doesn't really account for his uniqueness. In an e-mail to me, he said Ives "remains inexplicable, which is probably a good thing."

And hey, six of six people found my review at Amazon helpful. I have arrived.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on December 29, 2008, 11:53:14 AM
[ checks to see if he's voted . . . . ]
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on December 29, 2008, 12:01:22 PM
And hey, six of six people found my review at Amazon helpful. I have arrived.

Heck, you got comments on your review, Joe! You da man!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on December 29, 2008, 12:27:56 PM
And hey, six of six people found my review at Amazon helpful. I have arrived.

Haha! Isn't it nice to get helpful feedback on Amazon?!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on January 05, 2009, 10:45:18 AM
I've been able to find the rest of David Schiff's review (by clicking on the "next page" icon), which I post below:

The issue of the dating of Ives's compositions also remains unresolved in Magee's account. She claims that Ives assigned his compositions the dates of their earliest sketches and speculates that he may have been encouraged in this practice by Henry Cowell, a younger composer with whom Ives became closely associated in the 1920s. According to Magee, Cowell backdated his compositions so that he would appear to be more of a pioneer; Ives, in the 1920s, similarly wanted to appear to be a precursor of European Modernism, not a follower. Magee argues, however, that such works as Three Places in New England, the Holidays Symphony and the Concord Sonata were all composed during and in response to World War I, and that Ives not only continued to compose through the 1920s but, encouraged by Cowell, continued to rewrite his music to give it a more aggressively Modernist sound. For whatever reasons, Ives left much of his music unfinished or open-ended; as shown by the rewriting of the Second Symphony, he was composing, or at least recomposing, almost to the time of his death. Perhaps the prospect of continued recomposition of much of his work kept him going.

Magee does not explore the aesthetic dimensions of updating. If Ives's music was composed a decade or more later than once thought, it could also have been more responsive to European Modernist music than Ives wanted to let on. In the first decade of the twentieth century, when Ives was beginning his business career in New York City, Gustav Mahler was often in town performing works like Debussy's Nocturnes and Iberia, Busoni's Berceuse élégiaque, Strauss's Ein Heldenleben and his own First, Second and Fourth Symphonies. If he attended Mahler's performances, Ives would have been intrigued by any of these pieces. In Fêtes, Debussy's second Nocturne, a lively dance is interrupted by an approaching march that swells in volume and becomes ever more riotous--an effect heard in Ives's "Putnam's Camp" and "Decoration Day." Moreover, while Magee conjures up rich interpretations from Ives's major works by dating many of them to World War I, she fails to address the fact that they all sprang from the so-called experimental pieces that Ives began to write in 1906, beginning with The Unanswered Question and Central Park in the Dark. These still-astounding works really do precede anything comparable in European music--not that there was anything comparable until perhaps after World War II. These miniatures present the textures and rhythms that Ives would later expand into extended musical panoramas: superimposed musical layers moving at different tempos and with different harmonies that evoked a sense of cosmic mystery. They are the core of Ives's achievement, yet Magee is at a loss to explain them. Indeed, she mentions The Unanswered Question only as evidence of Ives's current fame because the title of the piece served as a running gag on an episode of Frasier.

Magee treats Ives's engagement with political issues during World War I as a sign of a greater awareness of public taste than he is usually credited with. His evocations of earlier wars in "The St. Gaudens" and "Putnam's Camp" were intended to rekindle patriotic fervor, while songs like "Tom Sails Away" expressed the widely felt anxiety over military conscription. In his insurance business, Ives was a master of salesmanship and marketing. Why, Magee reasons, should it be any different in his music? At a time when modern composers, like Leo Ornstein and Cowell, promoted their music by performing it themselves, Ives devised an alternative strategy whereby he acted as his own publisher, publicist and even patron. In the 1920s Ives allied himself with the emerging school of American ultra-Modernists, which included Cowell, Varèse and Carl Ruggles. Ives subsidized their concerts and Cowell's magazine, New Music Quarterly; in return, they programmed him on their concerts and the magazine published his music. According to Magee, this alliance encouraged Ives to make his music more dissonant, pushing it toward the unprecedented sonic chaos of the last movement of the Fourth Symphony. At the same time, though, Ives supplied Cowell with memos about his early life, which Cowell and his wife would draw on to fashion the influential image of Ives at the center of the biography they published in 1955, a year after his death. "In Cowell's writings," Magee explains, "Ives underwent a startling transformation from a nervous, hermetically creative New York businessman into a deep-rooted Connecticut Yankee who preserved long-lost regional music in his compositions."

I wonder, though, if Ives's marketing skill is a strength that only a musicologist could value. After all, posthumous recognition is not the usual measure of a successful sales strategy. Ives was a man of considerable means, yet he was incapable of gaining a foothold in the concert world with anything resembling the success of George Gershwin or Aaron Copland, both of whom came from far humbler backgrounds and were writing music that was, in its way, as far removed from the nineteenth-century Germanic classics as Ives's works. For whatever reasons, Ives remained convinced throughout his life that the regular concert world would reject his music. When the Bernstein premiere of the Second Symphony was broadcast, Ives, according to Swafford, listened quietly and then, as the applause began, "spat into the fireplace and walked into the kitchen without a word."

Magee's book is a model of contemporary musicology, sympathetically sober in its judgments and interdisciplinary in its methods. Yet in the end it tells us much more about Ives's milieu than his music. I'm a composer, not a musicologist, and I think it's worth trying to imagine a different way of understanding what's unique about Ives's music. After a Hartford violinist offered Ives a sharp criticism of his First Violin Sonata, the composer famously asked, "Why do I like to work in this way and get all set up over what just upsets other people...? No one else seems to hear it the same way. Are my ears on wrong?" Let's imagine that they were on "wrong," that Ives was differently eared in a particular way. When my father began to lose his hearing, he complained that hearing aides were no help; they amplified all sounds, not the ones he wanted to hear. Imagine Ives as having congenital hearing aids. When most people listen to conversation or music, they are able to focus on the relevant sounds and filter out other noises. Ives may have lacked this ability or, conversely, may have had a special ability to listen inclusively, to register all the sounds his ears picked up. I know musicians who are acutely aware of the tones produced by room fans and electrical fixtures, sounds that most people block out. The late Stuart Feder, author of a compelling psychoanalytic study of Ives, recognized this quality in Ives when he pointed out that he "entered the world with a predisposition toward music that affected the nature of his perception of reality." In his childhood, and perhaps particularly in charged circumstances like holiday celebrations, which provide the subject of many of his compositions, Ives may have experienced every sound he perceived, and every emotion attendant upon those sounds, as music. We can then hear much of Ives's music as Proustian attempts to recapture and re-create these intensely felt experiences from early life.

If we imagine this differently eared, alternatively wired Ives, a lot of what critics have found problematic about his music and career falls away. Like other great composers, he probably possessed an acute and unaccountable impulse to use sounds expressively. As he matured he had to balance the need to acquire skills through musical education against the preservation of this impulse, a conflict he explained later in terms of the colliding advice of his father and Horatio Parker, his Yale music professor. As Magee makes clear, Ives remained faithful to both his father and Parker, particularly if we think of these two figures as emblems of two versions of musical culture, Jacksonian populism and Gilded Age sacralization. Most of Ives's music stems from the repertory of his father's marching bands and the popular hymns he played as a church organist during his boyhood. But Ives did not pursue the career of a march composer like John Philip Sousa, or a hymn composer like Dudley Buck. Instead, he envisioned a music that would exalt marches and hymns to the spiritual heights he encountered in the peak experiences of childhood and, though he did not easily admit it, in particular works of classical music.

When Ives was 20 he attended his first opera at the Met--Götterdämmerung. In few other works of classical music would he have encountered a visionary framework capable of bearing his extended experience of sound. I think the closing minutes of this opera--the immolation scene in which Valhalla is set aflame, the Rhine overflows its banks and human history seems to start all over again--set the expressive mark for Ives's later music. You can hear the descending bass line of the last phrase of Wagner's opera reiterated at the end of Ives's equally apocalyptic Fourth Symphony. When we imagine Ives's artistic project this way, we can forget about the Oedipal convolutions of the psycho-biographers and also, I hope, ignore the tired issues of American and European musical styles, of populism and elitism. And we can permanently retire the term "maverick" as a label for a composer who simply and successfully remained true to his own special ears.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on January 05, 2009, 11:34:01 AM
I'm all for retiring the term "maverick" in any event.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on January 05, 2009, 12:17:58 PM
I'm all for retiring the term "maverick" in any event.

It was pretty much killed in the last election.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on January 05, 2009, 03:52:35 PM
It was pretty much killed in the last election.
Quite. Thanks for posting the rest of that review - he makes some eminently sensible appoints to my mind and I can't help but find myself agreeing with him - he sort of echoes your own criticism of the book too - that Ives himself disappears and that none of the musical innovations are actually explained. He writes well actually - I wonder if he's written anything else?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Joe Barron on January 06, 2009, 10:10:42 AM
He writes well actually - I wonder if he's written anything else?

David has written two books: The Music of Elliott Carter, the definitive guide to Carter's pre-1997 music, and a wonderful little Cambridge Handbook on Rhapsody in Blue. I have and can recommend both. He also writes for the Nation three or four times a year, and other of his articles have appeared in the New York Times.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Josquin des Prez on January 06, 2009, 10:33:26 AM
My fear now is that, given the anti-modernist tendency of contemporary musical politics

Where?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on January 06, 2009, 11:15:48 AM
Where?

There is scarcely anyone else from whom that question would be quite so funny.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Josquin des Prez on January 06, 2009, 12:10:11 PM
But i don't have any anti modernist screed, dear Karl. Show me one single composer from the past 50 years or so who is a genius and i'll recant every bit of negativity i've poured over contemporary music.

All the same, i don't see any anti modernist tendency among academics, most of it comes from the audience.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on January 06, 2009, 12:14:08 PM
But i don't have any anti modernist screed, dear Karl. Show me one single composer from the past 50 years or so who is a genius . . . .

Screed, plus blinders:  as I say, an unfailingly amusing combination.

So what do you do for amusement when you're not de-railing threads with your rants?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on January 06, 2009, 01:14:52 PM
David has written two books: The Music of Elliott Carter, the definitive guide to Carter's pre-1997 music, and a wonderful little Cambridge Handbook on Rhapsody in Blue. I have and can recommend both. He also writes for the Nation three or four times a year, and other of his articles have appeared in the New York Times.

Thanks - I will check them out!

Show me one single composer from the past 50 years or so who is a genius and i'll recant every bit of negativity i've poured over contemporary music.

Britten, Shostakovich, Lutoslawski, Ligeti, Feldman, Messiaen...
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: karlhenning on January 06, 2009, 01:23:48 PM
Britten, Shostakovich, Lutoslawski, Ligeti, Feldman, Messiaen...

Well, but you're talking to someone who won't believe that Le sacre du printemps is a work of genius, unless JS Bach appears to him in a vision and tells him so.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Josquin des Prez on January 06, 2009, 01:39:16 PM
Britten, Shostakovich, Lutoslawski, Ligeti, Feldman, Messiaen...

Of which only Shostakovich may have approached a genius, and i'm not even sure of that. Try again.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on January 06, 2009, 01:42:42 PM
Well, but you're talking to someone who won't believe that Le sacre du printemps is a work of genius, unless JS Bach appears to him in a vision and tells him so.

Doesn't bother me too much though somehow. When the truly great musical minds of the twentieth century like Shostakovich and Rostropovich regard Britten as a genius, I am inclined to agree with them. Or rather it is somewhat comforting when people of that stature confirm ones own considered beliefs on an issue - somewhat lessens the impact (even more if that were possible) of someone on the internet saying the exact opposite, no matter how fervently they may do so!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Josquin des Prez on January 06, 2009, 01:43:01 PM
Well, but you're talking to someone who won't believe that Le sacre du printemps is a work of genius, unless JS Bach appears to him in a vision and tells him so.

Because claiming that the works of a Britten or a Messiaen are equal to those of Bach is a far more sensible position.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Guido on January 06, 2009, 01:53:12 PM
Claiming anyone's works are equal to Bach's is probably a project doomed to failure.* But no one is doing that just because they say that Britten is a genius. In your mind perhaps, but not the people who say the words, nor the general community of scholars and the public that recieve them.


*note that this is not just because Bach is probably the greatest composer, but also because it's difficult to imagine how one might compare The Rite of Spring, The Goldberg Variations, Brahms' Fourth Symphony and Peter Grimes in terms of ranking them on some scale of genius - how could one even begin to do this meaningfully, in a way that could be universally agreed upon, other than by personal preference? For me the question of greatness is greater at what?


EDIT: this is going way way off topic now... maybe you should start a new thread?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Josquin des Prez on January 06, 2009, 02:24:59 PM
Claiming anyone's works are equal to Bach's is probably a project doomed to failure.* But no one is doing that just because they say that Britten is a genius.

What else could you possibly mean? What in the nine hells do you think being a genius means? Can we say that the music of Beethoven approaches that of Bach? Yes. Can we say the same for Mozart, Chopin or Wagner? Yes, yes and yes. Can we say the same for Britten?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: knight66 on January 06, 2009, 02:29:33 PM
Josquin, Your obsession about what constitutes genius is becoming akin to spamming. Please do not distract this thread with yet another discussion on the qualities of, qualifications for, the levels of or the impossibility of genius in the works of various composers, non composers, women or for that matter white trash.

Knight
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Josquin des Prez on January 06, 2009, 02:46:14 PM
Not sure what could there be that's more important then a quest for genius, but i wouldn't need to be this insistent if people would be willing to simply give me a straight answer any now and then. No matter, i have my own thread now, i'll leave this one alone.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: knight66 on January 06, 2009, 02:47:22 PM
Thank you very much.

Knight
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: ZauberdrachenNr.7 on August 03, 2014, 04:44:34 AM
Two New Books on Ives, reviewed in this weekend's WSJ, page C5+: Mad Music by Stephen Budiansky; Charles Ives in the Mirror by David C. Paul.  "It may not have the detail and scope of Swafford's admirable 1996 biography...or the scholarly and analytic scope of J. Peter Burkholder's '95 study...but Budiansky lures the reader into the mystery of Ives's life, and the eccentric power of his music, in prose free from jargon and pretense.. 'His music was American and modern' Budiansky writes, 'but it was at the same time so intensely entwined with his own nostalgic exploration of the memory of music making in a world gone by as to be his and his alone, then and forever...'" Leon Botstein, music director of the ASO wrote these reviews.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Scion7 on August 03, 2014, 05:18:29 AM
I sometimes wonder if Ives had not been an American composer, if there would have been quite so much written on him?  There are so many others where there is a dearth of biographical writing or analysis going on that IMHO might be better served by the efforts.  I will add that I enjoy much of Ives' music - but I don't hold him anywhere near, say, Barber, or even Copland.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Cato on August 03, 2014, 05:52:32 AM
Two New Books on Ives, reviewed in this weekend's WSJ, page C5+: Mad Music by Stephen Budiansky; Charles Ives in the Mirror by David C. Paul.  "It may not have the detail and scope of Swafford's admirable 1996 biography...or the scholarly and analytic scope of J. Peter Burkholder's '95 study...but Budiansky lures the reader into the mystery of Ives's life, and the eccentric power of his music, in prose free from jargon and pretense.. 'His music was American and modern' Budiansky writes, 'but it was at the same time so intensely entwined with his own nostalgic exploration of the memory of music making in a world gone by as to be his and his alone, then and forever...'" Leon Botstein, music director of the ASO wrote these reviews.

Many thanks for this!

Before he begins his reviews, Leon Botstein writes this:

Quote
Ives stands apart and above in the history of American music. He is America's Mahler —like Mahler, he integrated snatches of popular tunes into his compositions and challenged smug expectations of continuity and beauty in music. But Ives is also this country's Schoenberg —an enfant terrible with new ideas, who marked the beginning of a distinctive American modernism. Yet despite periods of advocacy and enthusiasm for his music, little of it has become truly popular or canonical. Even though he was America's first truly original and important composer of classical music—and everyone agrees that there is something uniquely American about Ives—the music seems not to speak for itself but to demand explanation.

Now there is a topic for debate!  Is Charles Ives "America's Mahler" AND "America's Schoenberg" ?

And of interest:

Quote
It was only in the 1920s that Ives's music began to attract attention, but he seems to have mostly stopped composing around the same time....Ives's early decline has been subject to psychobiographical probing....But Mr. Budiansky makes a persuasive case for a more mundane, though no less traumatic, explanation: Charles Ives suffered from diabetes before the discovery of insulin...Mr. Budiansky's novel contribution is to argue that diabetes alone can explain almost all his behavior, without any need for psychological diagnosis...Mr. Budiansky's simple, beautiful insight demolishes a plethora of ugly and tortured hypotheses about Ives's character and life.

My emphasis above.

See:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/book-review-mad-music-by-stephen-budiansky-charles-ives-in-the-mirror-by-david-c-paul-1406927119?cb=logged0.6040716980945218 (http://online.wsj.com/articles/book-review-mad-music-by-stephen-budiansky-charles-ives-in-the-mirror-by-david-c-paul-1406927119?cb=logged0.6040716980945218)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: ZauberdrachenNr.7 on August 03, 2014, 06:02:08 AM
I sometimes wonder if Ives had not been an American composer, if there would have been quite so much written on him?  There are so many others where there is a dearth of biographical writing or analysis going on that IMHO might be better served by the efforts.  I will add that I enjoy much of Ives' music - but I don't hold him anywhere near, say, Barber, or even Copland.

I don't think it's that (being American, that is).  Rather it's his individuality, if not eccentricity - musical and personal - that assures his continued interest to biographers and musicologists.  Plenty of American composers languish in near - and undeserved - anonymity, Irving Fine among 'em.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 03, 2014, 07:05:50 AM
I don't think it's that (being American, that is).  Rather it's his individuality, if not eccentricity - musical and personal - that assures his continued interest to biographers and musicologists.  Plenty of American composers languish in near - and undeserved - anonymity, Irving Fine among 'em.
Inspired by my sig are we Z7?  :)

Ives gets hyped because he's an American who did much of what avant garde did before they did it. For those who value that sort of thing above musical substance, that matters. So Stamitz, inventor of the Mannheim Rocket, towers over Bach and Haydn. This was the dominant opinion of music intellectuals in the middle of the last century, and remains a common attitude amongst them now. If you see the past as nothing but preparation for you, you laud those who led to you.

There being only so much room for American composers available, it would be better if Ives got less of it. Not none, less.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 03, 2014, 07:22:05 AM
Unsettling portrait of an American not-so-original

Charles Ives Reconsidered by Gayle Sherwood Magee. U. of Illinois Press, 2008. 238 pp. $35.

I can think of no composer who has been damaged by musicologists in the past few years as much as Charles Ives, and I was waiting eagerly for Gayle Sherwood Magee's new book, Charles Ives Reconsidered, to set the record straight. At last, I thought, someone was going to speak up for him with the weight of scholarship behind her.

Ives's stock crashed in 1987, when Maynard Solomon published a paper in The Journal of the American Musicological Society, titled "Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity," in which he charged that Ives deliberately backdated his scores to appear more of a musical innovator than he actually was. Solomon took as his starting point Elliott Carter's notorious, damning review of the Concord Sonata, which suggested that Ives might not be a true prophet.

"The fuss that critics make about Ives's innovations is, I think, exaggerated," Carter wrote, "for he has rewritten his works so many times, adding dissonances and polyrhythms, that it is probably impossible to tell just at what date the works assumed the surprising form we know now. The accepted dates of publication are most likely those of the compositions in their final state."

In later interviews, Carter recalled visiting Ives in his home in the late 1920s and watching him revise his scores to, in his phrase, jack up the level of dissonance. But Carter never accused Ives of dishonesty. In his review of the Concord, he specifically faults critics. It was up to Solomon to take the next step. He accused Ives of a "systematic pattern of falsification," backdating his scores and lying about just when certain of his were written.

The cry of protest from Ives specialists was immediate and loud, but like the truth about Sarah Palin and the bridge to nowhere, it could not stamp out the growing narrative. Almost every CD of Ives's music released in the decade after Solomon's article appeared contained, in its program notes, a reference to the chronology scandal, inevitably followed by a lame comment that is really didn't matter. (Carter made the same point in his review, but that part of the controversy seemed to disappear, and in any event, saying that the chronology doesn't matter is just a polite was of admitting that Solomon was right. If he was wrong, we wouldn't need irrelevance as a fallback position.)

Scholars such as Peter Burkholder and Philip Lambert defended Ives's integrity and originality, but only Gayle Sherwood Magee, a doctoral candidate at Yale (now teaching at the University of Illinois), answered Solomon's challenge directly. Focusing on his choral music, she dated the paper he used, analyzed his handwriting, and found, according to Ives's biographer Jan Swafford, that Ives's own dates were more accurate than not, and indeed, some pieces were written later than Ives's dates indicates. Solomon's systematic pattern of falsification, Swafford wrote, was neither systematic, or a pattern, nor false.

So, when I learned Sherwood Magee was writing a book on Ives, I was excited. Here, at last, would be the definitive story of Ives's career, grounded on the indisputable, revised chronology of his music developed both by Sherwood Magee herself and by James Sinclair at Yale University. It would be a vindication. Well, it's a vindication all right -- mostly of of Solomon and Carter.

While Sherwood Magee does not believe that Ives backdated his scores, as Solomon contends, she does acknowledge that many of his major works evolved over a period of years, even decades, and, in the end, he usually gave the years in which he began a piece as the date of composition. Echoing Carter's epistemological doubt, she concludes on the last page of her text that "many of his most important works cut across the arc of his compositional life in complex and probably unknowable ways."

Of course, if the claims for Ives's precedence had never been made, the debunking would not have been necessary, and his honesty would never have been questioned. In Sherwood Magee's telling, the source of the claim -- and of all the subsequent trouble -- is Henry Cowell. It was Cowell who, in his early writing about Ives in the 1930s, concocted what Ives's biographer Frank Rossiter called the Ives Legend, which described a visionary working in isolation, indifferent to success, inventing the language of modernism years ahead of his European contemporaries. Cowell had an agenda, Sherwood Magee writes: he wanted to establish American precedence in 20th century music, and he found a patriarchal figure in Charles Ives. To cleanse the stain of European influence from Ives' résumé, Cowell made George Ives into the central influence of young Charlie's life and expunged from the record the indispensable lessons Ives learned from of Horatio Parker, his genial, German-trained music professor at Yale.

Ives seemed happy to go along with the charade. According to Sherwood Magee, he sensed that throwing in his lot with the up-and-coming modernists would lead to recognition and acceptance in the larger community of musicians, and he fashioned his autobiographical Memos of the early 1930s to suit Cowell's purposes. First, he gives the earliest possible dates to his major compositions. Second, he denigrates Parker's contribution to his development and even concocts a homey little parable to praise his father's open-minded experimentalism at the expense of his professor's myopic conservatism: Parker told him that he there was no excuse for an unresolved dissonance at the end of one of his songs, Ives recalled, and when he related the comment to his father, George replied that not every dissonance has to resolve, any more than every horse should have its tale bobbed in response to the prevailing  fashion.

As Sherwood Magee points out, Ives did not begin taking classes with Parker until two years after his father died. The story is impossible.

Ives thus comes off as an ingrate, an opportunist, and yes, a prevaricator. He also appears as a hypochondriac, a misogynist, a xenophobe (though largely by association), and oddly passive. In a concise 180 pages, Sherwood Magee succeeds better than any other writer I know in re-creating the musical and social atmosphere that Ives breathed, but the composer himself almost disappears under the pressure of his influences. Everything he does seems to be a reaction to something else. One can understand it in the early chapters, when, as a young musician trying to find his place in the world, Ives finds his heroes and tries on a succession of professional hats, but his extraordinary burst of creativity in the decade after 1907 remains unaccounted for. During these years, Ives was free to compose the music he wanted. He had given up the life of a professional organist for the security of the insurance business, and he did not have to write for the American market. No younger composers like Henry Cowell were recasting him in their own image.
And yet Sherwood Magee says only that this new phase, which she dubs "nationalist-militarist," was at some level a questioning of the European romantic tradition, and that his renewed interest in quoting hymn tunes might have grown from his wife's religiosity. (Ives married Harmony Twichell in 1908.) Both theories draw a positive musical progression out of a negative space.

Charles Ives certainly did not spring from the head of his father as a fully formed innovator. It is now clear his deepest, most effective work grew from years of searching and revision. The composer absorbed many influences along the way. Sherwood Magee names them all as they go by, but none of them wrote the Concord Sonata, and one of them could have. The essence the Ives phenomenon remains a mystery. Perhaps it must: no biography I have read successfully accounts for the genius of Mozart are Brahms. They are just there, virtuosos by age ten, polished composers in their early twenties. Such a rapid blossoming of talent defies social and psychological explanation.

At the end of this short but depressing ride, Sherwood Magee gives us a carnival psychic's cold-reading of Ives's character. He was, she says, "a flawed, brilliant, naïve, shrewd, insecure, compassionate, ambitious, deceitful, trusting human being" In short, a mess, but really not that much difference from any one of the rest of us.  The challenge of Ives studies in the future, she says, will be to appreciate the composers from this "unvarnished perspective."

She can count me out. After years of keeping up with the revisionism, I'm too exhausted to do much more than put on a CD of the Second String Quartet and wonder, yet again, at the miracle of the sound.

Wow. I knew none of this. I lost interest in Ives very quickly after a first burst of enthusiasm and until this month have not heard any Ives at all except once since 1982. So I REALLY enjoyed this piece. Albeit for the reasons that pained you writing it. Many thanks!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Scion7 on August 03, 2014, 07:53:43 AM
For example, I like Griffes much more than Ives - yet - he's barely known, even by "us" Americans.  :-)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: springrite on August 03, 2014, 07:56:54 AM
For example, I like Griffes much more than Ives - yet - he's barely known, even by "us" Americans.  :-)
One of my favourite American composers indeed!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 03, 2014, 08:50:32 AM
Well, bad form to contribute to a thread about one composer with "what's the big deal about him? I prefer this other composer."

Since the question was raised, I much prefer Ives to what I have heard of Griffes (and what I have heard of Griffes has not made me wish to hear more).

Ken, I had seen Joe's post, and while I agree that the matter is unsettling, my feeling is that one thinks well of the music, or not.  If I like this or that piece by Ives, because of the romance of "See! Yankee ingenuity got there before then Europeans!," I think one's affection for the music is flawed.  I am interested in reading further about it, yes, but the question of whether I like the music or not does not hang in the balance.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 03, 2014, 09:23:34 AM
Well, bad form to contribute to a thread about one composer with "what's the big deal about him? I prefer this other composer."

Since the question was raised, I much prefer Ives to what I have heard of Griffes (and what I have heard of Griffes has not made me wish to hear more).

Ken, I had seen Joe's post, and while I agree that the matter is unsettling, my feeling is that one thinks well of the music, or not.  If I like this or that piece by Ives, because of the romance of "See! Yankee ingenuity got there before then Europeans!," I think one's affection for the music is flawed.  I am interested in reading further about it, yes, but the question of whether I like the music or not does not hang in the balance.

Karl, I think we are agreeing. As I said, I came to the conclusion in my sig line long before I knew he was possibly a fake, and before indeed 1987. I listened to him again recently as part of revisting some pre-minimalist American composers, many of whom are very fine (Piston, Thomson, Mennin, Rochberg, Diamond seem to be the standouts).
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 03, 2014, 09:52:47 AM
Bene.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 03, 2014, 10:09:56 AM
I just finished the whole thread. I might be the only member of GMG to feel this way, but I kinda like Josquin des Prez (the GMG one.)
 
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: torut on August 03, 2014, 10:55:29 AM
Kyle Gann is writing a book Essays After a Sonata: Charles Ives’s Concord, and on his blog (http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/) he comments on misconceptions about Ives that are generally shared with musicologists. For example,

Criticizing musicologists' tendency of phychoanalyzing Ives
http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2014/07/the-composer-as-cripple.html (http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2014/07/the-composer-as-cripple.html)

About wrongly accusing Cowell of dismissing European influence on Ives in order to value American music
http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2014/07/ives-the-primitive-as-straw-man-2.html (http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2014/07/ives-the-primitive-as-straw-man-2.html)

The OP's main interest was the chronological issue, but I don't think it matters much in the long run.


Gann's book itself seems technical, focusing on the particular work, Concord, not a biography of Ives or a book about the reception of Ives.

http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2014/06/a-pseudo-milestone-but-feels-real.html (http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2014/06/a-pseudo-milestone-but-feels-real.html)

"I have just completed a first draft of Essays After a Sonata: Charles Ives’s Concord. It is currently something over 136,000 words, which is just about the length of my American Music book; plus, there are hundreds of musical examples. There are fourteen chapters, as follows:

The Story of the Concord Sonata, 1911-1947
The Programmatic Argument (and Henry Sturt)
The Human Faith Theme and the Whole-Tone Hypothesis
Emerson: The Essay
Emerson: The Music
The Emerson Concerto and its Offshoots
Hawthorne and The Celestial Railroad
Hawthorne: The Music
The Alcotts
Thoreau: The Essay
Thoreau: The Music
The Epilogue: Substance and Manner
The First Piano Sonata
Editions (1920 versus 1947) and Performance Questions

The book is due to Yale University Press in September."
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: ZauberdrachenNr.7 on August 03, 2014, 11:31:36 AM
Inspired by my sig are we Z7?  :)


You're always inspirational, Ken B.  (and oddly, in the case of La Mer, you inspired me to appreciate it all the more!).  ;)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Scion7 on August 03, 2014, 12:14:02 PM
I didn't know about any of this controversy, either - must not have read any recent CD notes that closely. Duh! Not that I had that much interest in them - Ives to me is just a good musician of passing interest. He gets a spin perhaps once a year.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 03, 2014, 12:37:50 PM
I'm feelin' the love.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 03, 2014, 12:39:14 PM
I just finished the whole thread. I might be the only member of GMG to feel this way, but I kinda like Josquin des Prez (the GMG one.)

From his input to this thread alone, one could pardon that eccentricity 8)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Cato on August 03, 2014, 03:08:06 PM
I have never completely trusted Elliott Carter's statement about "jacking up the dissonances."

From Two Published Editions of Ives's Concord Sonata (sic) by Geoffrey Block in a book called Ives Studies edited by Philip Lambert: p. 30.

Quote
This essay will demonstrate that the orchestral nature of the revised "Emerson" in the Concord Sonata does not as a rule signify the creation of new dissonances (pace Carter) but instead marks a return to the earlier dissonances of the Emerson Overture and the autograph ink score of the sonata, both of which preceded the first edition.

(My emphasis in red.)

Pace Carter indeed!  But let's say that Ives for whatever reason was revising this or any of his scores with "more dissonances." 

So what?  Composers have rethunk their scores quite often!  If a score gets radicalized or turned into a Fux exercise in a revision, so what?  It's the composer's score!  It does not belong to history, the avant-garde, or anyone else.

Listen and judge based on the music: if you like it or dislike it, explain why from the score, not from what somebody says 40 years later about what happened in a parlor at a desk.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 03, 2014, 03:24:01 PM
Good points.

I have never completely trusted Elliott Carter's statement about "jacking up the dissonances."

Aye... Carter is an interested party, in a conversation where disinterest is golden.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: EigenUser on August 03, 2014, 04:24:21 PM
I just finished the whole thread. I might be the only member of GMG to feel this way, but I kinda like Josquin des Prez (the GMG one.)
Not the only. Me too. It's a shame he isn't posting anymore, though some were rather unpleasant.

The whole "genius" thing is interesting, though utterly useless. He said that Shostakovich was the closest on someone's list (on page 2, I think). I would think the opposite, actually (not that I mean any disrespect to Shostakovich). I suppose the bigger difference between us is that I don't think my list means anything (or should) to anyone else.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 03, 2014, 04:41:17 PM
Not the only. Me too. It's a shame he isn't posting anymore, though some were rather unpleasant.

The whole "genius" thing is interesting, though utterly useless. He said that Shostakovich was the closest on someone's list (on page 2, I think). I would think the opposite, actually (not that I mean any disrespect to Shostakovich). I suppose the bigger difference between us is that I don't think my list means anything (or should) to anyone else.
I will enigmatically remark that one of the things I like about Ligeti, from your sig line,  is that he wasn't a nihilist. I gather you approve of his words too, but I suspect we are seeing different virtues here!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Jo498 on August 04, 2014, 12:17:05 AM
Inspired by my sig are we Z7?  :)

Ives gets hyped because he's an American who did much of what avant garde did before they did it. For those who value that sort of thing above musical substance, that matters. So Stamitz, inventor of the Mannheim Rocket, towers over Bach and Haydn. This was the dominant opinion of music intellectuals in the middle of the last century, and remains a common attitude amongst them now.
Do you have any source for that? I very much doubt that this was ever a majority position. In any case there are quite a few influential "music intellectuals" who entirely disagree. For instance, Adorno and Rosen, who would agree on very few other things I suppose, would clearly regard Haydn or Mozart as towering above Joh. Stamitz.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 04, 2014, 05:44:37 AM
Do you have any source for that? I very much doubt that this was ever a majority position. In any case there are quite a few influential "music intellectuals" who entirely disagree. For instance, Adorno and Rosen, who would agree on very few other things I suppose, would clearly regard Haydn or Mozart as towering above Joh. Stamitz.
I was being sardonic. If you accept that innovation is the real source of musical value then you are led to that conclusion, which is a silly one.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: not edward on August 04, 2014, 08:42:56 AM
I think in re: Carter's view of Ives, it's very difficult to know exactly how to regard his published utterances.

Clearly he had a very ambivalent relationship with Ives' music, but Carter's late period suggests some kind of reconciliation (for example the second Figment, "Remembering Mr. Ives", or the post-Unanswered Question trumpet writing in Adagio tenebroso.

There's a curious parallel here with John Adams' view of Carter's music. Once openly contemptuous of it (perhaps protesting too much?), more recently he's conducted Carter's Variations for Orchestra alongside his own works.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on August 04, 2014, 10:17:14 AM
Karl, I think we are agreeing. As I said, I came to the conclusion in my sig line long before I knew he was possibly a fake, and before indeed 1987. I listened to him again recently as part of revisting some pre-minimalist American composers, many of whom are very fine (Piston, Thomson, Mennin, Rochberg, Diamond seem to be the standouts).

I can vouch for at least Piston and Rochberg from that list. But I've been personally "re-considering" Ives in the last year or so, and have concluded that, if he isn't the greatest American composer, then he's still pretty close to that distinction. We need more Ives performances, not fewer! (and more of those other guys too)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Cato on August 04, 2014, 01:51:57 PM
I can vouch for at least Piston and Rochberg from that list. But I've been personally "re-considering" Ives in the last year or so, and have concluded that, if he isn't the greatest American composer, then he's still pretty close to that distinction. We need more Ives performances, not fewer! (and more of those other guys too)

Amen!  And for those who might not know about the following:

Quote
There is a great Man living in this country — a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.

- Arnold Schoenberg, from notes he wrote c. 1944.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 04, 2014, 05:56:05 PM
Amen!  And for those who might not know about the following:

- Arnold Schoenberg, from notes he wrote c. 1944.
Schoenberg's words were written under the impression the tales of Ives are true. They seem not to be. But as you say, that reflects only on the man's character, not his music. About which we must differ!  8)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 05, 2014, 05:44:12 AM
I disagree. I think that Schoenberg's words reflect approval of Ives doing his work regardless of questions of what the public wants, and notwithstanding lack of the positive reinforcement of frequent performance. For Schoenberg, it was always about the music; he did not seek or applaud innovation for its own sake.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 05, 2014, 06:22:57 AM
I disagree. I think that Schoenberg's words reflect approval of Ives doing his work regardless of questions of what the public wants, and notwithstanding lack of the positive reinforcement of frequent performance. For Schoenberg, it was always about the music; he did not seek or applaud innovation for its own sake.
This assessment "He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame" depends critically upon whether Ives innovated and was ignored or was ignored and then "innovated" by back dating.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 05, 2014, 07:20:49 AM
If that be so, I'm not seeing it.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 05, 2014, 07:37:24 AM
If that be so, I'm not seeing it.
Case 1. Ives writes innovative music, is ignored, but persists.
Case 2. Ives writes fairly conventional music with a few oddities, is ignored, fakes changes retroactively to anticipate the innovations of others and claim them for himself.

There is a great woman living in this country — a pianist. She has solved the problem how to preserve one's self and to learn. She responds to negligence by contempt. She is not forced to accept praise or blame. Her name is Hatto.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: aquablob on August 05, 2014, 09:44:35 AM
I think in re: Carter's view of Ives, it's very difficult to know exactly how to regard his published utterances.

Clearly he had a very ambivalent relationship with Ives' music, but Carter's late period suggests some kind of reconciliation (for example the second Figment, "Remembering Mr. Ives", or the post-Unanswered Question trumpet writing in Adagio tenebroso.

There's a curious parallel here with John Adams' view of Carter's music. Once openly contemptuous of it (perhaps protesting too much?), more recently he's conducted Carter's Variations for Orchestra alongside his own works.

Anxiety of influence?

Did Adams change his tune a bit after Carter's death? Wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened. Beethoven and Haydn come to mind.
Title: Re: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on August 05, 2014, 11:57:47 AM
Case 1. Ives writes innovative music, is ignored, but persists.
Case 2. Ives writes fairly conventional music with a few oddities, is ignored, fakes changes retroactively to anticipate the innovations of others and claim them for himself.

In brief, I imagine the truth is a more nuanced version of Case .
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Cato on August 05, 2014, 01:38:42 PM
Case 1. Ives writes innovative music, is ignored, but persists.
Case 2. Ives writes fairly conventional music with a few oddities, is ignored, fakes changes retroactively to anticipate the innovations of others and claim them for himself.

????????????????????

And so, let's start being specific with evidence: which innovation by another composer has Ives "faked," in which composition does it appear, and when did he "fake" it?  For such a claim, one would need at the least to examine the various manuscripts involved for variations in penmanship, and test the ink(s) used along with the music paper. 

Check the article I cited earlier.

And again, I will emphasize that even if Ives did go back to an early composition to insert a technique by somebody else, why is that fakery?  Where and when did Ives claim a proprietary interest in e.g. quarter-tone techniques, or tone-clusters, or whatever?

Henry Cowell e.g. invented the term "tone clusters," and as far as I know Ives never sued him for using the technique and never claimed to have invented the term.



Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: EigenUser on August 05, 2014, 03:03:26 PM
????????????????????

And so, let's start being specific with evidence: which innovation by another composer has Ives "faked," in which composition does it appear, and when did he "fake" it?  For such a claim, one would need at the least to examine the various manuscripts involved for variations in penmanship, and test the ink(s) used along with the music paper. 

Check the article I cited earlier.

And again, I will emphasize that even if Ives did go back to an early composition to insert a technique by somebody else, why is that fakery?  Where and when did Ives claim a proprietary interest in e.g. quarter-tone techniques, or tone-clusters, or whatever?

Henry Cowell e.g. invented the term "tone clusters," and as far as I know Ives never sued him for using the technique and never claimed to have invented the term.
I do know that he did this with the loud cluster-chord ending of the 2nd symphony, which he added later.

...but, who cares when he added what? It's great music!

(I'm not a really big fan of Ives, but I definitely do like him reasonably well.)
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 05, 2014, 04:51:28 PM
????????????????????

And so, let's start being specific with evidence: which innovation by another composer has Ives "faked," in which composition does it appear, and when did he "fake" it?  For such a claim, one would need at the least to examine the various manuscripts involved for variations in penmanship, and test the ink(s) used along with the music paper. 

Check the article I cited earlier.

And again, I will emphasize that even if Ives did go back to an early composition to insert a technique by somebody else, why is that fakery?  Where and when did Ives claim a proprietary interest in e.g. quarter-tone techniques, or tone-clusters, or whatever?

Henry Cowell e.g. invented the term "tone clusters," and as far as I know Ives never sued him for using the technique and never claimed to have invented the term.
Have you lost the thread of conditionals Cato?

Cato: quotation from AS full of praise for Ives about indifference to fame and great innovation
Me: yeah but that praise is based on tales of originality that some say are faked
Karl: how would it matter if they were faked?
Me: because then Ives would be Hatto. Pretending he anticipated (Latin!) the other composer and building his fame on that. He would be neither indifferent to fame nor an innovator. AS's praise would not apply.

The truth of the charge is irrelevant to the question Karl asked and I answered.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on August 05, 2014, 04:53:16 PM
I do know that he did this with the loud cluster-chord ending of the 2nd symphony, which he added later.

...but, who cares when he added what? It's great music!

Yeah exactly. I don't see the point of this argument. Unless he plagiarized chunks of music from other composers, who cares?
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Cato on August 05, 2014, 06:11:04 PM
Have you lost the thread of conditionals Cato?

Cato: quotation from AS full of praise for Ives about indifference to fame and great innovation
Me: yeah but that praise is based on tales of originality that some say are faked


No subjunctives in that sentence.


...but, who cares when he added what? It's great music!

(I'm not a really big fan of Ives, but I definitely do like him reasonably well.)

Yeah exactly. I don't see the point of this argument. Unless he plagiarized chunks of music from other composers, who cares?

Amen!
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: amw on August 05, 2014, 06:59:38 PM
I just finished the whole thread. I might be the only member of GMG to feel this way, but I kinda like Josquin des Prez (the GMG one.)

You also like the music of Michael Nyman so that's no surprise. I look forward to your inevitable pronouncements of the dryness of water and coldness of the sun in due course. 8)

I don't think Ives's innovations have anything to do with quarter-tones, or dissonances or rhythmic inventions, regardless of at what point in the compositional process they were added; but rather new conceptions of form and structure (e.g. the two piano sonatas), juxtaposition of genres and high/low art, and a new approach to orchestration—all three of which are based upon principles of layering, piling material on top of or within a basic structure. This is similar to the procedures of Mahler and Debussy among others but unlike them Ives made no attempt to integrate his materials into any kind of personal language. Scraps of ragtime and popular song rub shoulders with thick, dissonant textures that act like a heightened version of Lisztian bravura and a vein of spiritual "purity" along the lines of Dvorak and MacDowell (in their more pastoral moments), along with Ives's own love of pitting many lines of incompatible counterpoint against one another. This can make his music problematic—there are a number of miscalculations in his larger works which reduce their effectiveness IMO—but exciting when done well, as the lines come together into a larger conception of the whole, etc, etc.

Ives is one of my hobby-horses to some extent... along with Enescu and Skalkottas and Medtner... (I cannot yet call myself a Myaskovsky fan as my knowledge currently measures only about 0.3 vandermolens...) but it's hard for me to explain what appeals to me about his music in language that's clear and comprehensible, for whatever reason. Suggest Kyle Gann's book on the Concord Sonata, when it comes out. That'll probably be easier to understand than anything I could say.
Title: Re: "Charles Ives Reconsidered": A book review
Post by: Ken B on August 05, 2014, 07:50:06 PM
You also like the music of Michael Nyman so that's no surprise. I look forward to your inevitable pronouncements of the dryness of water and coldness of the sun in due course. 8)

I don't think Ives's innovations have anything to do with quarter-tones, or dissonances or rhythmic inventions, regardless of at what point in the compositional process they were added; but rather new conceptions of form and structure (e.g. the two piano sonatas), juxtaposition of genres and high/low art, and a new approach to orchestration—all three of which are based upon principles of layering, piling material on top of or within a basic structure. This is similar to the procedures of Mahler and Debussy among others but unlike them Ives made no attempt to integrate his materials into any kind of personal language. Scraps of ragtime and popular song rub shoulders with thick, dissonant textures that act like a heightened version of Lisztian bravura and a vein of spiritual "purity" along the lines of Dvorak and MacDowell (in their more pastoral moments), along with Ives's own love of pitting many lines of incompatible counterpoint against one another. This can make his music problematic—there are a number of miscalculations in his larger works which reduce their effectiveness IMO—but exciting when done well, as the lines come together into a larger conception of the whole, etc, etc.

Ives is one of my hobby-horses to some extent... along with Enescu and Skalkottas and Medtner... (I cannot yet call myself a Myaskovsky fan as my knowledge currently measures only about 0.3 vandermolens...) but it's hard for me to explain what appeals to me about his music in language that's clear and comprehensible, for whatever reason. Suggest Kyle Gann's book on the Concord Sonata, when it comes out. That'll probably be easier to understand than anything I could say.

Team Nyman is on the case http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7964109/Scientists-create-dry-water.html (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7964109/Scientists-create-dry-water.html).