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Charles Ives in the Mirror

American Histories of an Iconic Composer

David C. Paul

Publication Year: 2013

American composer Charles Ives (1874 - 1954) has gone from being a virtual unknown to become one of the most respected and lauded composers in American music. In this sweeping survey of intellectual and musical history, David C. Paul tells the new story of how Ives's music was shaped by shifting conceptions of American identity within and outside of musical culture, charting the changes in the reception of Ives across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Paul focuses on the critics, composers, performers, and scholars whose contributions were most influential in shaping the critical discourse on Ives, many of them marquee names of American musical culture themselves, including Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, and Leonard Bernstein. Paul explores both how Ives strategically positioned his music amid changing philosophical and aesthetic currents and how others interpreted his contributions to the idea, character, and functions of American music. Although Ives's initial efforts at making his music known to the public in the early twenties were unsuccessful, the resurgence of interest in the American literary past during the thirties helped secure an important place in American concert culture for his "Concord" Sonata, a work dedicated to nineteenth-century transcendentalist writers. Paul also charts the deployment of Ives as an icon of self-made independence and American freedom during the early Cold War period and the more recent instigation of Ives at the head of a line of so-called "American maverick" composers. By embedding Ives' reception within the changing developments of a wide range of fields including intellectual history, American studies, literature, musicology, and American politics and society in general, Charles Ives in the Mirror: American Histories of an Iconic Composer greatly advances our understanding of Ives and his influence on nearly a century of American culture.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

It has been just under a decade since I first set out to explore Ives’s “afterlives,” a term I am borrowing (and creatively misreading) from Walter Benjamin’s well-known essay about the task of a translator. In that period, I have had many Virgils and one Beatrice to guide me along the way. ...

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pp. 1-6

Charles Edward Ives is a stolid New England name. For those who know it, it is likely to conjure up images of a man in old age, bearded, clutching a cane, perhaps his bald pate exposed, but more likely hidden beneath a dilapidated old hat. In photographs, when he looks at the camera directly, there is mischief in his eyes that belies his years; ...

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1. Conservative Transcendentalist or Modernist Firebrand?: Ives and His First Publics, 1921–1934

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pp. 7-36

Early in 1921, several hundred Americans were puzzled to discover an unsolicited package in their mail that contained a pair of books.1 The larger of the two was bound in dark red cloth, and on the cover, framed by horizontal double lines, gilt lettering with a curlicued “M” and “E” lent a modest decorative touch. ...

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2. Songs of Our Fathers The Advocacy of Henry Cowell and the Appeal of the American Past, 1927–1947

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pp. 37-71

Contemporary photographs show a young man dressed in an oversized tailcoat and pinstripe pants, his hair slightly longer than fashionable, earnestly pounding away at a grand piano with his fists and forearms or clawing with equal aplomb at the instrument’s innards. This was Henry Cowell at the zenith of his musical celebrity during the 1920s (Figure 2.1). ...

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3. Winning Hearts and Minds: Ives as Cold War Icon, 1947–1965

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pp. 72-106

In 1950, sociologists David Riesman, Reuel Denney, and Nathan Glazer published a study of American culture with an enigmatic title: The Lonely Crowd. Though unflattering, depicting Americans as obsessed with the opinions of their neighbors, colleagues, and friends, the study resonated with the very people that it anatomized. ...

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4. The Prison of Culture: Ives, American Studies, and Intellectual History, 1965–1985

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pp. 107-147

On the evening of Sunday October 20, 1974, the 100th birthday of Charles E. Ives, a concert took place in honor of the composer at his alma mater, Yale University. As the members of the audience filed into Woolsey Hall, they were met by the sight of two enormous banners strung from the proscenium arch, framing the central bank of pipes of the fabled Newberry Memorial organ ...

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5. Musicology Makes Its Mark: Ives and the History of Style, 1965–1985

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pp. 148-185

Two Californian stalwart supporters of Charles Ives were among the celebrants who descended on New York in October 1974 for the Charles Ives Centennial Festival-Conference. Peter Yates had been one of Ives’s earliest devotees, a mystical modernist enraptured by the transcendentalist overtones of the later works in the output of the composer. ...

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6. Ives at Century’s Turn

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pp. 186-222

“Is an icon becoming a has-been?”1 This was the question New York Times critic Donal Henahan posed in April 1987, after Leonard Bernstein decided to cancel a scheduled performance of Ives’s Fourth Symphony. Indeed there was evidence that a certain amount of ennui had set in with respect to Ives. ...

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Postscript: “So What Do You Think about Ives?”

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pp. 223-228

It was a Sunday morning, the last session of a sleepy meeting of the Pacific-Southwest chapter of the American Musicological Society, and perilously close to lunchtime. A handful of stalwarts were scattered sparsely around the lecture hall as I stepped to the podium to read my paper. ...


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pp. 229-254

Works Cited

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pp. 255-276


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pp. 277-288

About the Author, Further Reading, Production Note, Back Cover

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pp. 304-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094699
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037498

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Music in American Life