Selected Correspondence of Charles Ives

Selected Correspondence of Charles Ives

Selected Correspondence of Charles Ives

Selected Correspondence of Charles Ives

Synopsis

This authoritative volume of 453 letters written by and to composer Charles Ives (1874-1954) provides unparalleled insight into one of the most extraordinary and paradoxical careers in American music history. The most comprehensive collection of Ives's correspondence in print, this book opens a direct window on Ives's complex personality and his creative process. Though Ives spent much of his career out of the mainstream of professional music-making, he corresponded with a surprisingly large group of musicians and critics, including John J. Becker, Henry Bellamann, Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell, Ingolf Dahl, Walter Damrosch, Lehman Engel, Clifton J. Furness, Lou Harrison, Bernard Herrmann, John Kirkpatrick, Serge Koussevitzky, John Lomax, Francesco Malipiero, Radiana Pazmor, Paul Rosenfeld, Carl Ruggles, E. Robert Schmitz, Nicolas Slonimsky, and Peter Yates.

Excerpt

Charles Ives (1874-1954) wrote hundreds of letters during his life, and, taken together, they provide one of the most comprehensive sources of information about him, second in scope only to his music. the Charles Ives Papers preserve letters and drafts for letters to and from Ives that span a period from 1881 until after his death in 1954. As Ives aged, correspondence became his primary connection to the world and an important instrument through which he defined himself and shaped perceptions of his character and music. the collected correspondence gives us a perspective on the public and private man that even a close friend would not have had. It allows access broad and deep into his thought and character over time.

From the first letter, in 1881, we see Ives’s energetic drive, his sense of humor and purpose, his tendency to be doing four or five things at once, and his relentless creativity. the letters from the 1880s show us Ives as a child balancing play, music, and family obligations. We see him in the 1890s as a college student carving out an independent identity, and we see the several roles that music plays in establishing that personality. the letters of 1907-8, between Ives and his fiancee, Harmony Twichell, provide the most personal glimpse of the composer as a young man and hint at the strength and depth of the relationship that sustained him personally and creatively through the rest of his life. Then there is a gap, a period from about 1909 until 1929, during which very little correspondence survives: Ives was writing his music. in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as his health suffered a serious downturn and he faced retirement from both insurance and composing, Ives forged an increasingly substantial link of communication to the musical world through his letters. He began to correspond and collaborate with E. Robert Schmitz, Henry Cowell, Nicolas Slonimsky, and other champions of modern music. He became a patron, a coconspirator, and eventually a father figure to this aggressively modernist and predominantly Americanist circle of musicians. and in this process, the character he presented in his correspondence changed. the letters also document the increased interest in Ives’s music and its progressively wider acceptance by the musical community in the 1930s and 1940s. the volume of mail, both fan letters and more substantive correspondence, increased as Ives’s health declined. the letters from the last years of his life show the importance of the friendships he had developed through decades of correspondence. and they provide a touching coda after his death in 1954: an outpouring of grief and sympathy for Harmony and an appreciation of his role in the musical and personal lives of those friends.

For several reasons, Ives’s correspondence offers a particularly rich and detailed record of his activities after 1930. This was an especially difficult time for the Iveses: ill health forced . . .

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