============ from the cover ==========
In his Postface to 114 Songs, which he published at his own expense in 1922, Charles Ives (1874-1954) wrote:
"Some have written a book for money; I have not. Some for fame; I have not. Some for love; I have not..... I have not written a book for any of these reasons or for all of them together .... I have merely cleaned house."
The diverse styles represented by Ives' songs tell us what he means. But as they continue to be performed, the individuality of the approach - whatever the style - makes them seem essentially Ives. This applies equally to pioneering gestures, sentimental slices of life and songs about topical issues. What comes over is that his subjects, however trivial, meant something to Ives and that he had a remarkable gift for communicating, even though the reception he got at the time must have made him despair. His volume of 114 Songs, sent out free, started life in many studios by helping to raise the level of the piao stool!
In Summer Fields/Feldeinsamkeit (Hermann Allmers, trans. Chapman): 1897
A student composition from Ives' time at Yale, where he has set the same poem as Brahms in his Op. 86 No. 2. Ives said that these songs to texts used by famous composers, for which he had been criticised, were primarily studies and "not composed in the spirit of competition"!
In the Alley (Ives): 1896
A hilariously banal take-off of the Victorian popular song from Ives' Yale days inserted "for association's sake ... on the grounds that that will excuse anything."
Religion (L.Y. Case): 1910?
A sturdy start with solid triads: then quotes from three hymns, ending mystically with "Nearer my God to Thee" in the piano.
Luck and Work (Robert Underwood Johnson): 1913?
An equally epigrammatic song with an affirmative major ending.
The Cage (Ives): 1906
A vivid picture of the caged leopard and the boy, exploiting chords built in fourths and fifths and whole-tones in the melody.
Grantchester (Rupert Brooke): 1920
Ives takes part of Brooke's famous poem and creates a mesmeric summer atmosphere. When the text refers to a faun he quotes (acknowledged on the score) from Debussy's Prelude a I'Apres-midi.
Premonitions (Robert Underwood Johnson): 1921
Ives found the mystical qualities of Johnson particularly congenial - the poet's descriptions of nature mean much more than at first appears. Here they are messengers of Fate and Ives presses boldly on to a true pioneer's peroration in rugged bitonal harmony.
Nov. 2. 1920 or An Election (Ives): 1921
Ives makes this a "soliloquy of an old man whose son lies in Flanders Fields" and writes words and music in the heat of anger at American withdrawal from European responsibility in the League of Nations. At the time Ives was unsuccessfully campaigning for a type of government by referendum. This song quotes from "Lincoln, the Great Commoner".
Duty (Emerson): 1921
The first of what Ives called Two Slants or Christian and Pagan. After a gently dissonant idiom, religious certainty is represented by a perfect cadence at the end.
From "Lincoln, the Great Commoner" (Edwin Markham): 1913?
A vigorous celebration of the great American hero, with quotes of Civil War songs.
Thoreau (Ives, after Thoreau): 1915
This beautiful impressionistic picture of the solitude of Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau lived in isolation from 1845-47, is based on themes from the last movement of Ives' Concord Sonata.
Walt Whitman (Whitman): 1921
Ives chose the first five lines of the twentieth stanza of Whitman's long poem called Walt Whitman, published in 1855. He catches Whitman's hectoring declamation most effectively in musical terms.
The Greatest Man (Anne Collins): 1921?
Ives read this ditty in his evening paper, obviously responded to its genuine feeling and set it - all from the boy's point of view.
The Rainbow or So may it be! (Wordsworth): 1921
A particularly Ivesian approach to Wordsworth's famous poem - initially tough to match nature, then a style modulation to the hymn-tune Serenity for a tender ending.
Walking (Ives): 1900-2
An October landscape, this time in New England, starting with church bells in the piano part. The written commentary (see text) tells us what is being depicted later on.
August (Folgore da San Geminiano, trans. D.G. Rossetti): 1920
One of three settings in his most progressive style which Ives made of translations from Rossetti's The Early Italian Poets published in 1861. August starts with Ives' own type of impressionistic landscape but the scene is Italian with horses, heat and Tuscan wine.
September (Folgore da San Geminiano): 1920
This is a different picture showing the hectic shooting of game-birds. The hunters are urged to be generous with their catch. Ives represents the confusion with elements of the whole-tone scale dissonantly combined.
December (Folgore da San Geminiano): 1920
Finally a cold winter scene with a drunk Catalonian host, which Ives matches with bitonal harmony and clusters.
Autumn (Harmony Twichell): 1908
Another song to a poem by the composer's wife, sketched as early as 1902 but adapted in the year of their marriage. The idiom, as usual for her texts, is conservative, but Ives supplies a strong sense of atmosphere and a climax of Tchaikovskian passion.
Afterglow (James Fenimore Cooper): 1919
One of the most haunting examples of Ives' subtle New England impressionism depicting the sunset.
from the "Incantation" (Lord Byron): 1921
An extract from Byron's Man/red treated as a nocturne with unusual varied rhythmic groupings in the piano texture.
Spring Song (Harmony Twichell): August 14, 1907
A poem by Ives' wife (1876-1969), set in a simple style close to her taste: the effect of waiting for spring prompts an unexpected move to the subdominant key at the end.
At Sea (Robert Underwood Johnson): 1921
Luscious harmony to match a mystical landscape.
Tarrant Moss (Kipling): 1902
Ives provides a driving rhythm for the first and last stanzas of Kipling's ballad about a murder to avenge a false love.
Waltz (Ives): 1894?
Another student effort with plenty of sly mimicry.
Romanzo di Central Park (Ives): 1900
Leigh Hunt made the suggestion that many love poems could be represented by their obvious end-rhymes only. Ives took this up and a brilliant comic song is the result.
Canon (Thomas Moore): 1894?
The whole of the first verse, and most of the second, actually forms a cheerful canon between the voice and the bass of the piano part.
Mirage (Christina Rossetti): 1902
A dream soaring melodically over romantic harmony.
Maple Leaves (Thomas Bailey Aldridge): 1920
Another landscape: this time October in New England.
Charlie Rutlage (DJ. O'Malley): 1920-21
One of Ives' most dramatic songs - a frontier ballad, innocent enough at the start and finish, but frenzied under the impact of violent events in between.
The Camp Meeting (Ives, after C. Elliott): 1912
This song is based on the last movement, Communion, of Ives' Third Symphony, which won him a Pulitzer Prize when it was first performed in 1947, thirty-five years after it had been completed. Two hymn-tunes, treated in Ives' improvisational manner are reverently alternated and eventually combined - "Just as I am, without one plea" and "O for a thousand tongues to sing."
- Peter Dickinson (1991)