Re: Ives Revisited
- "...composers that have collaborated with Ives posthumously"
That clause amuses me. It smacks of spiritualism, though I don't
think you meant it that way. Several decades ago a pianist in
England claimed to be channeling the spirits of dead composers
like Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Debussey, etc. She claimed
they were transmitting their posthumous new compositions
through her (like more Beethoven sonatas). When critics demurred
from accepting these transmitted compositions as stylistically
plausible, she cited no less an authority than Sir Donald Tovey as
to their authenticity. Of course, Tovey himself had been dead for
decades, so draw your own conclusion. :)
I believe George Ives owned a copy of Helmholtz's treatise on the
sensations of tone, and it stimulated much of his experimentation.
It is plausible that tunings were discussed between father and son,
but I am unaware that Charles ever read theoretical works like
this. George Ives would also sometimes detune the practice piano
for some experiments. But Charles did not experiment in the way his
father did. Charles was 100% a composer and any ideas along this
line would have appeared in etudes, takeoffs and rags rather than
appear in theoretical notes. So I am not so sure Charles Ives had
any particular passion concerning establishing different schemes of
interval values. Also, he was a pianist and organist. The former
condition would leave him stuck rigidly in well-temperament, as far
as any prospect of performance was concerned, while the second might
have permitted him some leeway if he had chosen to exercise it.
All string players instinctively differentiate between
enharmonically equivalent flat and sharp keys, and Charles would
certainly have picked this up. If Charles never thought long
about "sweetening" his thirds, he was certainly not averse to adding
neighboring notes and exploiting clusters. In brief, I would expect
that Charles Ives would rather improve a score by additions, rather
than mandating a temperament revolution. Those Quarter Tone piano
pieces are enrichment by addition, like a double-manual instrument
for an imaginary four-handed player.
Is there any chance that we might get access to a recording of
realisations of Universe Symphony like that of JR, or will the
Austin realisation remain the only one in public circulation?
- I suppose the best policy for me would be to observe a moratorium on
value judgements and just wait to hear the results.
Another variable to deal with is the Charles Ives propensity to
change his mind and change it back again. He did so many times in
the course of his composer life. When opportunities to mount a
performance arose under normal circumstances, he might very well
stifle the radical aspects of a work and make a tame conservative
version just to avoid trouble. On the other hand, when entrusting
things to Cowell or Harrison (for instance) he might go the other
direction and increase the radicality, asserting the most advanced
That all means to me leaving the door open for possible alternative
presentations such as with just intonation.
That letter you cited might have actually been penned by Mr. Ives
himself? He often dictated letters as if Harmony had made them.