Friday, October 7, 2011

Charles Ives, The Man

The following text which Charles Ives wrote and set to music has made me curious about who he was as a man. I looked up Samuel Ramey on YouTube for listening pleasure, and happened to stumble on this poem and song, and was very touched by it's beauty. Ives was unique in that he could make a strong statement in a minute. The text is a tribute to the family dog that died, and the song may be the first he ever wrote. Check out this moving poem. "One evening just at sunset we laid him in the grave; Although a humble animal his heart was true and brave. All the family joined us, in solemn march and slow, From the garden place beneath the trees and where the sunflowers grow." Obviously, Ives had remarkable depth to him in order to come up with such a touching poem. Ives clearly loved his daughters, as shown by this poem. Ives was a business man during the day, and a musician at night and on the weekend. His buisness associates did not know that he wrote music. He was quite successful as a business man, but he always believed in living by modest means. He could have retired a millionaire, but he wanted to help the working man have life insurance. He was a family man, and making a good living for his family was very important to him. He said, " if a composer has a nice wife and some nice children, how can he let the children starve on his dissonances?" Ives was a strong lover of his country, and a humble man who did not seek recognition. His love for his country is evident in a lot of his works. As a matter of fact he quotes "America the Beautiful" in his second symphony. Ives loved to experiment with different sounds, and would not simply go with the trends and write "attractive" music. Unfortunately, his health began to go down hill in 1918, when he suffered a major heart attack due to diabetes. He lived 36 more years, but he stopped composing in 1927. He lost the strength to compose, and soon after retired from business because of his weak health. He was heartbroken when he could no longer compose. Supposedly, he went downstairs to his wife in tears, and said that he just could not do it anymore. A sad story for sure. Who knows where his composition would have gone had it continued. The same goes for Mozart, Bizet, Jimi Hendrix, Duparc, John Lennon, John Coltrane and many others. As a composer he was a big experimenter. For example he wrote a piece called "Quarter Tones" for piano. Also, in his famous song Charlie Rutlage the pianist has to use their fist at one point. He was nit a man who lacked a sense of humor. He wrote a song called "Slugging a Vampire" which is 35 seconds long. Also, he set texts in other languages such as "Feldeinsamkeit.". That text was set by Brahms before Ives set it. Ives does a remarkable job setting this text. Charles Ives was a remarkable man and musician, who put his family first. His legacy as a musician and man will always live on.

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