Last week we discussed Antonín Dvořák and his approach to creating an “American” sound in music. This week we will look at an American-born composer who used a different approach to create his American compositions: Charles Ives.
Ives was first exposed to music by his father, George E. Ives, whose performance, teaching, direction of various musical ensembles, and involvement with traveling shows left a lasting impression on the burgeoning composer. From a young age, Ives was surrounded by European classical music, Protestant church music, and American vernacular music, saturating his musical world with a cultural vocabulary to incorporate in his later “American” works.
How does European classical music, Protestant church music, and American vernacular music find their way into Ives’ compositions? Ives is known for his musical borrowing and quotation. In his compositions, he often borrowed from the European classical music with which he was quite familiar with while also quoting from American vernacular songs and hymns. On Wednesday we will look at how Ives does this in one of his symphonies.