Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I is for... Ives

Charles Ives, that is.

I could have been for other things too, but since I needed to 'catch up' my Blogging through the Alphabet letters and neglected to post about our composer study at the end of last week, this worked out well.

We studied American composer Charles Ives last week.  Ives grew up in Connecticut and had a rather unconventional musical training.  His father, a bandmaster, had some unusual methods of teaching music and experimented with 'quarter tones' using a retuned piano.  Ives began composing as a young teenager, writing Variations on "America" when he was only 17 years old.

Ives composed mostly as a hobby, and his main income was from his work in the insurance business, which makes it all the more remarkable that he composed as much as he did.  His compositions range from songs and hymns to symphonies.  Some of his work is in traditional forms, but sometimes he merged those forms with experimental ideas - things like polytonality (playing in two different keys at once), and microtones (notes that fall in between the traditional notes on the piano).  He often borrowed themes or melodies from other musicians an incorporated them into his own work.

Twelve Songs by Charles Ives

We listened to the above CD and rather enjoyed it.  It was certainly different from the music we had been listening to in this study, although we had trouble describing exactly how.  For something really different, try listening to this example of Ives' composition using quarter tones.  To me, it sounds very strange.  

During his lifetime, his music wasn't performed much because it was very different from what people were used to.  Things like the three-quarter tone composition is still pretty different from what most people listen to! Other composers such as Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky admired his work and were influenced by it.

Here's another piece, one I find more pleasing!

Which did you like better? Leave me a comment and let me know!


Blogging through the Alphabet is a weekly link-up hosted by "Ben and Me". Please visit to join in and to see what thoughts this week's letter has prompted for other bloggers.

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