Charles Ives, born Danbury, CT 20 Oct, 1874, died New York, 19 May, 1954, was an American composer of classical music whose music is impossible to categorize. While some early songs and his First Symphony are relatively traditional in style and content, he is better-known for his pieces which defy the musical convention. There is no single systematic style. Pieces range from the completely atonal to almost conventional nationalistic, to ragtime, to music that utilizes two keys and two rhythms at once. He even suggested that the orchestra improvise. Perhaps the single thread that connects much of his music is his emphasis on America. Descriptive pieces abound with titles like: “Central Park in the Dark”, “Three Places in New England”, “Concord” piano sonata and others. His setting of “America” (“My country, ‘tis of thee”), whilst written for organ, is well known in its orchestral setting.
Ives worked in insurance. Until ill health forced him to retire in his late forties he worked on his music at the weekend and he considered much of his music to have little chance of public performance. He only received general appreciation late in his life.
List of Works
- Concord Sonata for piano
- Three Places in New England
- Washington's Birthday
- The Unanswered Question (tone poem)
- Four finished symphonies
- Five Sonatas for violin and piano
- Over 200 songs
"Ives, Charles Edward." The New College Encyclopedia of Music. 1976. Groves Dictionary of Music