========= from the cover ==========
The songs of Charles Ives (1874-1954) are a unique and significant contribution to the voice and piano medium. Ives wrote songs much as a diarist would make jottings about anything which interested or moved him - often to his own text - and he also used them as a sketchbook of exploratory techniques. When he published 114 Songs at his own expense in 1922 he realised that "some of the songs in this book cannot be sung" so he made instrumental versions of them: at the other extreme he included others which were close to Victorian parlour music "for association's sake - on the grounds that that will excuse anything." The range from sentimentality to the avant-garde, steeped in his own New England heritage, was Ives' way of coming to terms with life through music.
Two Little Flowers (Ives): 1921
A charming portrait of two little girls - Edith, presumably the Ives' adopted daughter, and Susanna. The melody starts like an actual hymn-tune ("How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds") but soon digresses gently.
The Children's Hour (Longfellow): 1901
Another atmospheric song about childhood - static in the outside sections but pictorial in the middle. Ives set the first three of Longfellow's ten stanzas - the inclusion of Edith amongst the three girls named must be a prophetic coincidence.
Memories. A - Very Pleasant, B - Rather Sad (Ives): 1897
In the first section ("as fast as it will go" plus whistling) Ives conjures up the expectant hush in the opera house just before the curtain rises. When it does he provides a set-piece song of inspired obviousness.
The Side Show (Ives): 1921
There are several layers of meaning in this short song, an uneven waltz because it describes a rickety old horse pulling a merry-go-round. The Side Show is based on Leslie Stuart's "Is that you, O'Riley?", heard at the scene, but the last line quotes the waltz from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6.
The Things our Fathers loved (and the greatest of these was Liberty) (Ives): 1917 A typical tapestry of quotations - "Dixie's Land", "My old Kentucky Home", "On the Banks of the Wabash", "Nettleton", "The Battle Cry of Freedom", "In the sweet Bye and Bye" -woven with nostalgia but also relevant to the American entry into World War I.
The Circus Band (Ives): 1894
A riotous quickstep portraying a colourful parade in which the amateur performers get out of step - notably at the end of the second verse.
Berceuse (Ives): ?1903
An exquisite nocturne.
There is a certain Garden (author unknown): 1893
A distinctly Victorian song of adolescent emotions which was not published until 1968.
In Flanders Fields (J. McCrae): 1917
A World War I song which was given an unsatisfactory performance at a luncheon meeting of insurance managers - Ives' professional colleagues - at the Waldorf Hotel, New York. Both voice and piano parts are based on quotations of patriotic songs but the mood at the end is muted and sinister.
They are There (Fightingfor the People's New Free World) (Ives): 1917
A more jingoistic interpretation of World War I in a song which Ives, in 1942, even adapted for
World War II. At least thirteen patriotic national songs are quoted.
Tom Sails Away (Ives): 1917
Another war song contrasting blurred impressionistic memories of childhood with Tom's present existence - serving "over there". Quotes include "Araby's Daughter", "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean" and "Over there".
Immortality (Ives): 1921
A poem of resolution in the face of a child's illness. Like Two Little Flowers, Immortality opens
(and also closes) with a reference to a hymn: "How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds".
The Housatonic at Stockbridge (Robert Underwood Johnson): 1921
A description in sound of a walk beside the Housatonic river with superimposed hymn-singing from a nearby church. Two hymn-tunes are quoted - Missionary Chant and Dorrnance - and the same material forms the last movement of the orchestral work, Three Places in New England.
From the Swimmers (Louis Untermeyer): 1915
Another song where the piano part depicts water - this time manly clusters to confront the cold sea.
The Indians (Charles Sprague): 1921
An extraordinarily intense response to the plight of the American Indian.
The New River (Ives): 1913
A dissonant landscape filled with the sounds made by modern man.
Peaks (Henry Bellamann): 1923
An evocative late song to a poem by the man who wrote some of the earliest articles about Ives and his work.
Yellow Leaves (Henry Bellamann): 1923
An autumn landscape most sympathetically set at a time when Ives had virtually stopped composing.
From Paracelsus (Browning): 1921
Ives took a fragment from Browning's dramatic poem which explores the creative process, gave it a heroic piano part, and ended by stressing the power of love.
West London (Matthew Arnold): 1921
A portrait of a woman with two children begging on the street. She let the rich pass but a labourer contributed, leading, Arnold piously hoped, to "a better time than ours". Ives' final crescendo is followed questioningly by a wrong key, pianissimo quote of "There is a Fountain filled with Blood".
Ann Street (Maurice Morris): 1921
Images of a short but hectic street between Broadway and Nassau in downtown Manhattan.
The White Gulls (Maurice Morris after the Russian): 1921
A tranquil impression of the seabirds contrasted with the chromatic anguish of the souls of men.
The Seer (Ives):? 1913
A brilliantly pointed snapshot of a village character watching the world go by.
Pictures (Monica Peveril Turnbull): 1906
Four natural settings: the cornfield; the sea; the moor; and night.
Where the Eagle (M.P. Turnbull): 1906
A vision of paradise.
General William Booth Enters into Heaven (Vachel Lindsay): 1914
A campaign song about the Salvation Army leader, celebrating wildly, quoting gospel hymns, with the whole company transformed by the appearance of Christ.
In the Mornin' (Spiritual arranged Ives): 1929
A version of "Give me Jesus" which Ives took down from Mary Evelyn Stiles.
- Peter Dickinson (1991)