Saturday, August 05, 2006

America's Greatests

Charles Ives, 1st Truly "American Classical" Composer
Burton Greene the jazz-based pianist made a statement I liked stating that he started off learning 300 bebop tunes note-for-note off records until another musician told him, "Hey, man, why are you playing exactly like Horace Silver...Horace Silver lives right around the corner from me so I can go over to his house anytime I wanna hear Horace play the piano, plus I get a good meal overthere, too." Burton said, that clued him into going his own way in "free jazz" giving credit to learning all those be-bop tunes as "learning the rules" of playing jazz; he summed it up by saying, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

And this fits so well when you're evaluating Charles Ives as a composer. Ives admitted the same thing Burton Greene was saying; Ives hated Europeans having the last say on what was "classical" music and what was not. Ives referred to it as "following the German rule book," which, as Ives deduced, led to perfect music, sweet to the ears, so sweetly performed it doesn't disturb the ears of the old ladies who make up the audience at American concerts. He attended Yale and studied composition under Horatio Parker who had been trained in Germany. Ives got the best education available plus he'd grown up with a father who had been a bandmaster and musician since he was a teenager, the youngest but most highly regarded bandmaster in the Civil War. Ives started learning music under his father when he was a child, his father teaching him drums, horns, violin, and then piano. By the time he was 13, Ives was a regularly working church organist. By then, also, he had started composing.

Though Ives learned the basics, yes, he learned his Bach, he learned Bach from his father both backwards and forwards and without limits in terms of keys, rhythms, and tonalities. His father, Ives said, taught him to play his scales using different keys in each hand. His father seemed to leave conformity up to his son, who once heard his father telling one of his pupils, "I don't care if you play a fugue wrong, as long as you play it well." That's what set Ives against that "German rulebook" that he learned from cover to cover and that's what allowed him to defy all the rules in that book, to write around in defiance of what those rules said could be or could not be done.

[The Daily Growler
is experiencing a spell of lethargy. The above is the beginning of a study on who are the really truly authentic American artists, the greatest of what honest American art has produced. Charles Ives is the first artist we've gotten into thanks to this work being done by thegrowlingwolf, who is sure Charles Ives is the first-ever composer of absolutely American "classical" music, music Ives composed trying only to use American sounds, be those sounds the sounds one hears walking down a main street in an American town; even the sounds Ives heard at a Yale-Harvard football game in the Yale Bowl. That's his uniqueness. He's stems from the likes of Stephen Foster and the black-face minstrel shows and the New England Congregationalist Church and from the transcendental imaginations of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, a man who refused to pay tax to the U.S. if were to be used for war--Thoreau went to jail for not paying his taxes. It's too bad Americans today just don't stop paying their taxes...stop paying these lyin', sorry, self-centered, fops who are robbing us blind, killing huge numbers of people around the world, and who is aiding and abetting the murder of the planet Earth. Ives would say, "Chase the sons of bitches right straight out the F-ing front door of their government offices and right straight into the God-damn jailhouse where they belong." ConEdison, a public utility that controls all the electrical power in New York City, recently failed totally in trying to keep the power on in this area, and this after they were given all kinds of breaks and incentives to just build several new power substations right in the middle of residential neighborhoods thus threatening the lives of NYC citizens by spewing out sulpheric acids and mercury toxins. Stop paying their bills, then sue their asses in a citizens collective lawsuit and take them over for the people. This is what we face in this country right now and yet right in our midst in the American artists are hundreds of solutions, hundreds of philosophies that work on peace and not destruction. Charles Ives was a peaceful man with a volitile imagination.

for The Daily Growler

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