Charles Ives

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Ives, Charles

(īvz), 1874–1954, American composer and organist, b. Danbury, Conn., grad. Yale, 1898; pupil of Dudley Buck and Horatio Parker. He was an organist (1893–1904) in churches in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. In the insurance business from 1898 to 1930, Ives was concurrently composing music that was extremely original, iconoclastic, and advanced in style, anticipating some of the innovations of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, but not influencing musical trends because most of his works were not published as they were written. They were little known until 1939, when performance of his second piano sonata, Concord (1911–15), won him wide recognition. In 1947 his Third Symphony was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Ives's compositions include four numbered symphonies, orchestral suites, sonatas, organ pieces, choral works, a great deal of chamber music, and about 150 songs. His works are frequently dissonant, harmonically dense, and lushly scored with complexly layered themes, textures, and rhythms. In addition, he often uses vernacular American music, e.g., folk music, hymns and spirituals, marches, dances, rags, blues, and parlor songs, in his compositions, evoking the spirit of such aspects of American life as revival meetings and brass-band parades.


See his Essays before a Sonata (new ed. 1962) and his Memos, ed. by J. E. Kirkpatrick (1972); biographies by H. and S. Cowell (rev. ed. 1969) and S. Budiansky (2014); V. Perlis, Charles Ives Remembered (1974); R. S. Perry, Charles Ives and the American Mind (1974); H. W. Hitchcock, Ives (1977).

Ives, Charles (Edward)

(1874–1954) composer; born in Danbury, Conn. An organ prodigy, he was first trained by his bandmaster father, who also instilled a penchant for musical experiment. At Yale (1894–98) he learned much from the conservative Horatio Parker, but in view of his advanced musical ideas he decided not to pursue a career in music. After college he entered the insurance business in New York and over the next three decades he would rise nearly to the top of that profession. At the same time, after leaving his last church-organist job in 1902, he began a perhaps unprecedented period of creative isolation for a major composer; for twenty years, in his spare time, he composed prolifically and with growing confidence and maturity, although during those years his music was rarely heard in public. His important works, all marked by a unique blend of prophetic experiment and familiar American material, include the Concord Sonata, Three Places in New England, the Holidays Symphony, and the Fourth Symphony. Following a serious heart attack in 1918, his health and productivity declined; his last new pieces date from the mid-1920s. He lived his last decades as an invalid in New York City and West Redding, Conn., promoting his music as best he could and revising pieces; meanwhile, various enthusiasts gradually spread his music into the world.