SC MUSC 110 - 31 American Modernism (8 pages)

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31 American Modernism



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31 American Modernism

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University Of South Carolina-Columbia
Course:
Musc 110 - Introduction to Music
Introduction to Music Documents
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INSTRUCTOR S MANUAL CHAPTER 31 THREE AMERICAN VOICES COMPOSERS AND COMPOSITIONS IVES A Historical Background Like most precocious youths Charles Ives was an active adolescent Having studied music for years with his father he began taking organ lessons at the age of eleven and by the time he was fourteen he was the regular organist at the Second Congregational Church in his hometown of Danbury Connecticut Ives was not only musically inclined but also quite an athlete At the age of fifteen he discovered the new game of football and quickly became the captain of his high school team and its star player in one game scoring fourteen touchdowns It seems like he had time for just about everything except his studies and he went from receiving accolades as an honor student to barely scraping by Burkholder Tunes 39 Swafford 58 As a young musician Charlie as his family and friends called him made a practice of collecting musical scores as well as studying compositions and performing organ recitals During these concerts he played works in theme and variations form by a number of composers Therefore it was natural for him to turn to this familiar musical form when he composed Variations on America in either 1891 or early 1892 Scholars have noted that Ives based each of the variations on highly reputable models that he had studied and performed This composition was not a tongue in cheek tweak at the patriotic sensibilities of his neighbors but represented the best compositional efforts he could achieve at the age of seventeen Burkholder Tunes 22 Swafford 64 Ives first played the composition as part of an organ recital he gave in the near by town of Brewster New York on February 17 1891 He did not play the composition in the manner we are accustomed to hear it today His father would not allow Charles to play the polonaise Variation 4 because he thought it too European for his American audience Charles had also composed an interlude that had a canon in three different keys but his father nixed that as well saying it would make the boys laugh out loud and get noisy Swafford 64 Cowell 29 The next recorded performance of Variations occurred more than fifty years later on a radio concert given by the famous American organist E Power Biggs It was not until 1949 when Ives was seventy five years old that his most famous composition finally appeared in print Swafford 425 B Music Ives based the introduction on various motives derived from the tune Some of the melodic gestures such as the opening phrase are merely rhythmic alterations of the tune while others are more complicated and hidden Burkholder Tunes 21 44 46 While audiences today often consider this composition as a satirical slant on a patriotic tune Ives did not regard it in that light For him this unofficial national anthem of the United States was imbued with an honest patriotism and was worthy of respectful treatment Swafford 64 The first two variations are similar in style to the variations Ives studied Even Variation 3 which to us seems the most jocular of the set can be understood as imitating the sound of a circus calliope In many of his later composition he demonstrates an interest in replicating his impressions of music he heard in everyday society This may very well be an early manifestation an attempt to reproduce a commonly heard if unorthodox rendition of the melody that would have reminded his listeners of county fairs While we might wonder why the composer would set the fourth variation of this tune in the manner of a Polish dance the polonaise many of the variation compositions Ives had performed included such a setting so for him it was a natural choice Burkholder Tunes 21 22 Even the choice of keys used in the bi tonal interludes is not a matter of happenstance In each case the keys combine those of the preceding and forthcoming variation The first audience in Brewster New York did not hear these shocking passages however Ives left the score blank and only inked them into the manuscript in 1902 Burkholder Tunes 432 n 25 The tempo for the fifth variation is marked as fast as the pedals can go He evidently enjoyed this section saying that performing it was almost as fun as baseball Swafford 63 COPLAND Perhaps the most surprising aspect about the creation of this icon of American music is that Copland did not know what its title was to be until the night before the first performance Commissioned by the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in 1943 Martha Graham was to provide the choreography and select the topic while Copland was awarded a fee of 500 to compose the work The Boston Symphony offered Bart k twice the amount for his Concerto for Orchestra in the same year While working on the project Copland simply used the title Ballet for Martha Martha Graham derived the title from a poem by Hart Crane a poem that has nothing to do with the subject matter of the ballet She just liked the image suggested by the words The premiere was a great success Copland arranged the current suite in 1948 In addition to deleting a few sections where the interest was primarily choreographic he expanded the thirteen piece ensemble to a full orchestra The composer received a Pulitzer Prize for this composition in 1945 and the New York Times placed the announcement on the front page right under the banner headline proclaiming the unconditional surrender of Germany Copland 3346 The famous tune entitled Simple Gifts originated during a spiritual revival among the Shakers that occurred during the 1840s It soon became a popular melody among members of the sect While credit for its composition is uncertain it is probably the work of one member of the group Elder Joseph Brackett Brackett s peers noted that he possessed a natural singing ability and power to fill his listeners with spiritual enthusiasm and fervor This song would have been sung while dancing and early manuscripts identify it as a Quick Dance One Shaker recalled seeing him Elder Brackett sing it in a meeting room turning about with his coat tails a flying Patterson 316 317 372372 413 The current popularity of this tune is a result of Appalachian Spring When Copland turned to Simple Gifts in 1943 it was not generally known He found the tune in a collection of Shaker songs and thought it would be a perfect complement to the choreography Copland 32 33 B Discussion The text describes several musical traits that give Copland his distinctive sound The reliance on the triad is especially apparent


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