Manner versus substance Charles Ives (1874-1954)“It wasn’t the music that did it, and it wasn’t the wordsthat did it, and it wasn’t the sounds (whatever theywere—transcendent, peculiar, bad, some beautifullyunmusical)—but they were sung ‘like the rocks weregrown.’ The singers weren’t singers, but they knew whatthey were doing—it all came from something felt, waydown and way up.”“ ‘How can you stand it to hear old John Bell (the beststone-mason in town) sing?’ Father said, ‘He is a suprememusician.’ the young man (nice and educated) washorrified—’Why he sings off the key, the wrong notes andeverything—and that horrible, raucous voice—and hebellows out and hits notes no one else does—it’s awful!’Father said, ‘Watch him closely and reverently, look intohis face and hear the music of the ages. Don’t pay toomuch attention to the sounds—for if you do, you maymiss the music.’”
Ives, The Circus Band, 1897All summer long, we boys dreamed bout bigcircus joys! Down Main street, comes the band, Oh! "Aint it a grand and gloriousnoise!" Horses are prancing, knightsadvancing; Helmets gleaming, pennantsstreaming, Cleopatras on her throne! Thatgolden hair is all her own. Where is the lady allin pink? Last year she waved to me I think, Canshe have died? Can! that! rot! She is passingbut she sees me not.
Ives, Serenity, 1919 Text by John Greenleaf Whittier, from “The Brewing of Soma”“A unison chant” to be sung “Very slowly, quietly and sustained with little or no change in tempo or volume throughout” O, Sabbath rest of Galilee! O, calm of hills above, Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee, the silence of eternity Interpreted by love. Drop Thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease: Take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess, the beauty of thy peace.
Ives, The Housatonic at Stockbridge, 1921 Text by Robert Underwood JohnsonContented river! in thy dreamy realmThe cloudy willow and the plumy elm:Thou beautiful! from evry dreamy hillWhat eye but wanders with thee at thy will, Dorrnance hymnContented river! and yet overshyTo mask thy beauty from the eager eye;Hast thou a thought to hide from field and town?In some deep current of the sunlit brown.Ah! theres a restive ripple,And the swift red leavesSeptembers firstlings faster drift;Woulds’t thou away, dear stream?Come, whisper near!I also of much resting have a fear:Let me tomorrow thy companion be,By fall and shallow to the adventurous sea!