Charles Ives was the true father of twentieth century music in
America. His works combine wide-ranging experimentation and a love
of music without any European influence. He received his motivation
and principles in composition from his father who was anything but
conventional. With his revolutionary music, Ives became the most
significant composer that America produced in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth century.
Charles Ives was born on October 20th, 1874. His father was a bandsman and a musical teacher. By the age of 12, Ives was playing in his father's band. In his spare time, Ives' father would introduce Ives to all sorts of folk music and music Americana. He would also have Ives learn to play the piano with on hand in on key, and the other hand in another key. With these sorts of unconventional drills, Ives was destined for unconventional music that would exercise these influences.
And the age of fourteen, Ives found himself as a wage-earning organist at the local church. Upon graduating from his prepatory school, he attended Yale University where he did poorly in his academic subjects yet challenged his music teacher with innovative pieces and uncharacteristic rhythms. Some of his pieces contained free rhythms, quarter tones, which are tones in between two tones in a row, and textured music with too many things going on at once. His teacher, nonetheless, kept badgering him towards conventionality, and he finally graduated with his tame Symphony #1.
After graduating from Yale, he began to compose in his own unique style without having to worry about a professor restraining his creative output. However Ives realized that these pieces would not bring in a survivable wage, so he went into business at an insurance firm, and later began his own. Ives became one of the few millionaire composers.
His compositions never reached acclaim after he wrote them. He
kept them stowed away in his house. Only after a heart attack and a
stroke did his compositions taper off. But he did live to see his
wonderfully innovative pieces reach acclaim. In 1947, 36 years
after its composition, his Symphony #3 won a Pulitzer prize. He
died in 1954.
His Famous Compositions
Ives notable pieces include Images, Nocturnes, Three Places in
New England, Symphony no. 3, and his Piano Sonata no. 2. His two
quartets are very likeable, String Quartet no. 1, and
String Quartet no. 2. His
Symphony no. 4 was such a difficult piece that it required three
conductors to conduct it in its first performance. Ives was truly a
great composer, and one of the greatest that America has ever
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