Charles Ives is widely regarded as the first great American composer of classical music. But listening to his music is an adventure—hearing how a piece begins may not prepare you for what comes next, or how it ends. Knowing one Ives piece may not prepare you for another.Award-winning music historian J. Peter Burkholder provides an introduction to the composer’s diverse musical output and unusual career to readers of any background, discussing about thirty of the best and most characteristic pieces framed with biographical sketches. Burkholder shows how Ives mastered each tradition he encountered: from American popular music to classical European genres, from Protestant church music to his own unique experimental idiom, and interweaving elements from all these traditions in the astonishing works of his maturity. Burkholder provides compelling and accessible walkthroughs of select pieces, bringing the music alive and guiding listeners to a newfound appreciation of the composer. Ultimately, it reveals that there is an Ives piece for everyone
J. Peter Burkholder is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He is the author of the recent editions of A History of Western Music (2019, with Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca) and Norton Anthology of Western Music (2019, with Claude V. Palisca), His research has won awards from the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and ASCAP, among others. He has served as President of the American Musicological Society and of the Charles Ives Society.
It’s a delight when a leading expert explains his specialty in simple terms, as Peter Burkholder does here with Charles Ives. Admitting what’s strange in the music and elucidating why the strangeness works, he’s given non-musicians a thruway into Ives’s complex and colorful world.