Charles Edward Ives was an American composer who combined American popular, church music and European art music.
Charles Ives became a church organist at the age of 14 and wrote various hymns and songs, including his Variations on “America” written for a Fourth of July concert in Brewster, New York. It is considered one of the hardest pieces in the organ repertoire, even by modern concert organists,
He was also a gifted sportsman enjoying baseball and American football. He played on Yale University’s Varsity team and his coach felt he could have become a champion sprinter if he hadn’t devoted so much time to his music. His works ‘Calcium Light Night’ and ‘Yale-Princeton Football Game’ show the influence of college and sports on Ives’ composition.
Ives worked as an organist until 1902, when he entered the insurance industry where he received considerable fame for his work on life-insurance initiatives.
In 1906, Ives composed arguably the first radical musical work of the twentieth century, “Central Park in the Dark”. This was followed by a period of intense creativity that resulted in his most accomplished works including the “Holiday Symphony”, “Three Places in New England” and his most remarkable piece “The Piano Sonata No. 2: Concord, Mass.”, known as the “Concord Sonata”.
His style was a precursor to the avant-garde music of later in the 20th century, and he found support among composers like Gustav Mahler, Nicolas Slominsky and Bernard Herrmann. He won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 3, which had its premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
After 1927 Ives wrote no new music and concentrated on revising and publishing his earlier pieces.
Ives was one of the first American composers of international renown, however his music went largely unnoticed during most of his lifetime and many works were unperformed.
He took an open-minded approach to musical theory, encouraging him to experiment in bitonal and polytonal harmonisations, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatory elements, and quartertones.
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