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Re: [charlesives] The Musical Substance of Charles Ives's Works

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  • Russ Jenkins
    The borrowing of Ives is what first drew my interest to his music. In March Collegiate , he borrowed the tune from Annie Lisle . The Annie Lisle tune
    Message 1 of 37 , Sep 1, 2005
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      The borrowing of Ives is what first drew my interest to his music. In "March Collegiate ", he borrowed the tune from "Annie Lisle". The "Annie Lisle" tune was used by my high school as the school song. Turns out, this tune is used for several college school songs and even by a school in China.

      Forgive my lack of musical knowledge, but didn't J.S. Bach borrow the "St. Anne" tune for his Prelude and Fugue in E Flat Major? Perhaps Ives was influenced by Bach and others.

      Appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

      mhberest <mhberest@...> wrote:
      I have often wondered about the organization of Charles Ives's music.
      One cannot as neatly analyze his methods of composition as neatly as
      one can Schoenberg or Stravinski. One can point to the use of
      recurrent motives, or atonal pitch sets, but these do not by and large
      point to a system.

      I think it has been said somewhat before that Ives used quotations as
      "connective tissue" in his music, but I think they were more important
      than that.

      A traditional musical composition will be written in a major or minor
      key with chromatic ornamentation. Beyond that we may see incessant
      modulation or tonal ambiguity. Beyond that we may see the use of
      atonal pitch sets, tone rows or other quasi-serial processes, such as
      leitmotivs or fixed intervallic structuring.

      But the one thing all systems have in common is that they are
      _extramusical_ processes. In other words, they exist outside of any
      one musical composition, and can be used over and over.

      What if Ives's approach was to use quotes from familiar music, or
      "artifically created" familiar music as his extramusical system?

      I've mentioned the use of ostenati, and one hears things like Ives's
      "Country Band March" used over and over in everything from Putnam's
      Camp to Hawthorne to He is There. One might think this is the product
      of a lack of inspiration, that Ives didn't have enough stuff to fill
      the musical space so he kept borrowing from himself, or repeating
      things over and over.

      This might make sense were it not for the fact that Ives does not do
      this in earlier pieces like the 2nd and 3rd Symphonies, or even in St.
      Gaudens or Decoration Day, works that cleave more closely to
      traditional variation or development techniques. Ives knew how to do
      these, clearly.

      It almost seems like "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean" or the "Country
      Band March" were his formal elements, not so much like the traditional
      use of quotations, like the "variations on a theme of...", or even
      like a tone row, but like a key.

      We all know the major and minor scales. We all know "Columbia, the
      Gem of the Ocean" (or we did in Charles Ives's day or if we are
      familiar with Ives's music). And if we are familiar with Ives's
      music, we know "Country Band March." These exist outside of any
      individual composition, and can be used as, if not the basis of
      variations, as the core organizer, the "tonic" chord.

      The ostenati, then, through repetition unchanged, become like
      quotations, they become familiar enough to exist separately from any
      thematic process, to be recognized as their own entity. We see this
      in the strings of "Central Park in the Dark" and "Unanswered Question"
      and the solo violin part in the "Pink Teas at Vanity Fair" section of
      the Fourth Symphony's Comedy.

      Even in the "Pulse of the Cosmos" in Universe, each different rhythmic
      layer is an ostinato or quasi-quote with its own distinct timbre and
      rhythm. Not surprisingly, in the third cycle, there are actual
      melodic ostenati.

      This is not unique to Ives. I have read things about brief motives
      that continue over and over again in works of Schoenberg or
      Stravinski. But they did it only to the most miniscule degree. I
      think Ives made it a major part of his "system."

      As I said in another post, only as time goes by does the true measure
      of Ives's musical innovation becomes clearer and clearer. It is not
      just doing everything before everyone else, or multiple orchestras, or
      microtones. It probably is far more than we even realize today.





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    • davidgrayporter
      ... line in ... Specifically ... regard to ... is ... there ... the ... the ... result was ... any of ... Oh yeah, but it s not quite that way. Bth schools in
      Message 37 of 37 , Sep 13, 2005
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        --- In charlesives@yahoogroups.com, Douglas Jordon
        <douglas_jordon@y...> wrote:
        > davidgrayporter wrote:
        >
        > >
        > >> <>This is like the idea of composing melisma aganst a tenor
        line in
        > >> Medieval music.
        > >
        > It's funny, I was thinking about Medieval music as well.
        Specifically
        > how Medieval composers would layer melodies apparently without
        regard to
        > the harmonic consequences. I remember Perotins' name now that you
        > mention him, but the smattering of Medieval music I had in college
        is
        > pretty vague to me now. I do remember once our instructor said
        there
        > were at one time two distinct schools, one freely dissonant and
        the
        > other rhythmically sophisticated, maybe one centered in France and
        the
        > other in Italy. When the schools merged their practices, the
        result was
        > something akin to 20th cen music. IIRC it was late 14th cen. Does
        any of
        > this sound familiar?

        Oh yeah, but it's not quite that way. Bth schools in the 14th C. in
        France used free dissonance iun the upper parts (see the Kyrie from
        the Missa Tournai for the Ars Antiqua style and the Gloria for the
        rhythmically-sophisticated Ars Nova style).

        Now the end of the 14th C., that was a wild time for music. Duple
        meter in red ink (triple meter still in black), ultra-chromaticism,
        rhythmically-involved canons (in MODAL rhythms!), yes, that was a
        great time for music -- shitty time for people, but hey!

        The Renaissance seems to be based on a reaction against this French
        style. Look at what Cicconia composed. To me, the Renaissance,
        even Josquin, never seems to match the late 14th C. music.
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