Ives and Yale: The Enduring Influence of a College Experience
Published online: 1 October 1999
- PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40374568
In April 1998, the Yale University Department of Music and School of Music held a conference to commemorate the centenary of Charles Ives's graduation from Yale in 1898. "Ives & Yale '98" featured talks and panels on Ives's music and on his experiences at Yale and concerts of his music, including several works he wrote while in college and others that commemorate student life at Yale.1 This was a very unusual event. I can think of no other occasion on which a university has celebrated the hundredth anniversary—or any anniversary—of the graduation of one of its alumni. Perhaps there is no other college graduate in the history of the United States for whom such a celebration is more appropriate.
For Yale meant something very special to Ives, and Ives means something special to Yale. The relationship between the two began with strong family ties to the school even before he matriculated, and was reinforced through continuing contact after graduation. Like most young people who go off to college, he found it a life-changing experience, one that reinforced certain aspects of his personality, moderated others, and introduced him to new interests. Both the official curriculum of coursework and the unofficial curriculum of student life had a strong impact on Ives. His studies in music with Horatio Parker exercised a profound and lifelong influence that is only now becoming clear. What he learned at Yale made his future achievements possible. Finally, Ives has a unique and very public relationship to Yale through his music. In his mature music his life experiences became part of his subject-matter, and he immortalized in several pieces aspects of life at Yale in the 1890s, just as in other music he captured the experiences of growing up in a small New England city like Danbury and of living in early-twentieth-century New York. The importance of his undergraduate experience for his future work and the prominence of Yale as a topic for his music make Ives's relationship to his college one of the most significant of his career.
It was apparently ordained that Charles Ives should go to Yale. All the men in his family who went to college went to Yale, and family history conspired to make him the Yale standard-bearer of his generation. That Ives should be a Yale man was, as the psychologists put it, over-determined. His family had been nearby since William Ives helped to found the town of New Haven in 1638, three years after arriving in the New World. William Ives's great-great-great-grandson Isaac Ives was the first in the family to go to Yale, graduating in 1785. He moved to Danbury and established the Ives clan there. After his first wife died, he married Sarah Amelia White, whose father and grandfather had also graduated from Yale.2 Their son George White Ives went directly into business, without going to college.
The next Ives to matriculate at Yale, in 1850, was George's son Joseph Moss Ives, whose career at Yale was abruptly suspended by a college prank. In those years attendance at daily chapel services was compulsory, and somewhat resented by the students. So when he was a sophomore, Joseph Ives and some of his friends tried to silence the morning bell that called students to chapel by filling the bell with plaster. They got caught, Joe was sent home for two weeks as punishment, and his father sent him off to business in Boston, never to return to college.3 His brother Isaac went into business without going to college, and the sons of both Joseph and Isaac did the same. Brother-in-law Lyman Brewster, husband of their sister Amelia, was a graduate of the Yale class of 1855 and a lawyer in Danbury, but he and Amelia had no children.4
It fell to the sons of Joseph Ives's youngest brother George to renew the Ives family's honorable connections to Yale. As the town bandleader, professional musician, and relative failure in business, George Ives was something of an odd man out in a family of businessmen, and he may have been trying to redeem his own honor by sending his boys to Yale.5 His son Charles prepared for Yale at the Danbury Academy, where his Uncle Joe had prepped for Yale four decades earlier.6 When it became clear that Charles would need more help, he went to the Hopkins Academy in New Haven, which specialized in getting young men into Yale.7 He was not the world's best student, but with the help of several tutors and much hard work he passed the Yale entrance exams and matriculated in September 1894. This was partly a family project; one of his tutors was his uncle Lyman Brewster.8 Indeed, Stuart Feder in his biography of Ives has suggested that the Brewsters, lacking children of their own, became a second set of parents to Charles and his younger brother Moss, and it was they who were most enthusiastic about sending the boys to Yale.9 Sadly, George Ives died of a sudden stroke on November 4, barely six weeks into his son's four years at Yale.
Family ties to Yale did not stop with Ives's graduation in 1898. His brother Moss followed him to Yale, completing a bachelor of laws in 1899 and returning to Danbury to become a lawyer and judge. Ives meanwhile had joined a group of Yale graduates in an apartment in New York they affectionately called "Poverty Flat." Ives lived in Poverty Flat with other Yale men for the next decade, although it changed location and personnel over the years. In 1899, his Yale classmate and good friend David Twichell joined the group.10 Dave had invited Ives to join the Twichells on a family vacation in the Adirondacks in 1896, and there or perhaps earlier Ives met Dave's sister Harmony.11 After a few more Twichell family vacations and trips up to see her in Hartford, Charles Ives proposed to Harmony in 1907, and they were married in June 1908 by her father Reverend Joseph H. Twichell—also a Yale man, from the class of 1859. Ives was virtually surrounded by Yale, as he came from one Yale family and married into another one. And it continued into the next generation, at least a little while; his nephew Richard Ives, Moss's oldest son, graduated from Yale in 1925, although his younger brothers Brewster and Bigelow defected to the University of Pennsylvania.12 Finally, after Ives's death in 1954, his widow Harmony donated his music manuscripts and papers to the Library of the Yale School of Music, making the connection between Ives and Yale permanent.
Among the things Ives did at Yale was take courses—though as we will see, this was not perhaps the main attraction. He ended up taking more courses in music than in any other subject, but Ives did not go to Yale primarily to study music and may not have intended to make music his career.13 The somewhat old-fashioned Yale curriculum focused on mental discipline and general education rather than training in a particular field. So Ives took the required Greek, Latin, mathematics, English literature, modern languages (German and French), logic, psychology, ethics, and philosophy, and elected European history, political science, and American literature as well as music.14 That his three years of French did not stay with him may be surmised from a letter he wrote to Nicolas Slonimsky in 1931, when Slonimsky was in Paris to perform Ives's Three Places in New England and other modern American music. The letter begins with some apparently random French expressions, perhaps all Ives could muster up after a third of a century, adorned with wildly inappropriate accent marks:
Mons[ieur]: Mon Dieú!—Mon(') Lisá,—Bon Ämi—Bón Soit—Cher—Chez—French is a too violent language for me—no good cuss words. I understand it perfectly (when it's translated).15
However, he did retain his French long enough to compose several songs to French texts during the years just after graduation, and he knew enough German to set German texts in his last year of college and the next few years.16 Of Greek there is barely a hint, and of Latin only one very brief song (Vita) and the epigraph to another (Old Home Day).
Ives did remember fondly his English and American literature courses with William Lyon Phelps, who helped to form Ives's literary tastes. The classic English and American poets whose lyrics Ives later set to music closely match those Phelps taught and wrote about with enthusiasm, including Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Landor, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kipling, Emerson, Whittier, and Whitman. Ives's instrumental works on literary figures, such as the Robert Browning Overture and the Concord Sonata on Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and Thoreau, may also partly owe their inspiration to Phelps's teaching. While there are other sources for Ives's tastes in literature, including his family and his wife, Phelps's literary interests and preferences exercised a strong influence on Ives, and he probably learned more in Phelps's courses than in any other subject he took at Yale outside music.17
As Ives's biographers Frank Rossiter, Stuart Feder, and Jan Swafford have all pointed out, a Yale education in the 1890s involved not only the official curriculum but also a highly organized system of college life. In the view of many who experienced it, this was the more important education. Activities from sports teams to the Yale Daily News and Yale Literary Magazine were organized to give the men at Yale opportunities to compete. (Yale was still an all-male institution.) Through this they practiced the discipline, hard work, and organization required for success in business, and they forged alliances and friendships that would later serve as contacts in the business world. The winners in this competition for status were rewarded with membership in the sophomore societies, the junior fraternities, and the senior secret societies Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Wolf's Head.18
In this unofficial curriculum, Ives was a remarkable success. He was a member of the Freshman Glee Club; he was admitted to Hé Boulé, the most important sophomore society; his junior fraternity was Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of the three top junior societies; he was one of just 15% of his class to be selected to a senior society, in his case Wolf's Head; and he was elected by his graduating class to the prestigious Ivy Committee, winning the most votes.19 Like many of his fellow secret society members, he was a greater success at this unofficial curriculum than he was at the official one; his grade point average translates to about a D+ in modern terms (or perhaps a C+ after adjusting for grade inflation).20
Both in and out of the classroom, Yale promoted a number of attitudes that Ives would continue to hold throughout his life: respect for tradition, tempered by self-reliance and freedom; willingness to work hard and a drive to succeed, tempered by the insistence that each individual's work contribute to the common good; adherence to a liberal Christian faith marked by service; and an emphasis on character, discipline, duty, idealism, and optimism. There was a strong patriotism and devotion to the American ideals of freedom and democracy, acted out in the governance of student groups and in minimizing distinctions of class.21 Yale was probably not the sole source of these attitudes in Ives's experience, but it strongly reinforced them. Even Ives's pursuit of a distinctively American music and his concern that music not be emasculated are foreshadowed in an editorial published in the Yale Daily News at the end of his freshman year: "Yale stands for everything that is practical, for everything that has a distinctive American flavor, and we should deeply regret if the student here should lose any vigor of manliness for the sake of developing his appreciation of the fine arts."22 While Ives would later appear to criticize Yale's rigidity, conformity, and conservativism, many of his ideals and opinions never wavered from those common at Yale in the 1890s.23
Ives's engagement in college life is recorded in his music. All the groups he participated in, from the Glee Club to the fraternities and societies, used music in their social activities, and Ives supplied music for many of them. He came to Yale well trained in the popular styles of the day and found it easy to adapt his music to the college environment. For example, he had written several marches that featured a popular song in one strain, a common procedure in marches from the middle and late nineteenth century. At Yale he wrote or reworked three that use college tunes: March "Intercollegiate" includes "Annie Lisle," the Cornell Alma Mater; another march includes the song of the legendary but nonexistent Yale fraternity Omega Lambda Chi; and a third features the tune "Here's to Good Old Yale."24 He wrote music for several fraternity shows put on by Delta Kappa Epsilon, although little of it survives.25 In December 1896, the undergraduate literary magazine The Yale Courant published Ives's song A Scotch Lullaby, an earnest parlor song to a poem in Scots dialect by his classmate Charles Edmund Merrill, Jr. The two collaborated again on A Song of Mory's, a piece for male chorus published two months later in the same magazine. Ives wrote several other works for male chorus, some of which were sung by the Yale Glee Club. Best known was The Bells of Yale or Chapel Chimes, to words by Huntington Mason of the Yale class of 1899; this was sung regularly by the Glee Club, including in a December 1897 concert tour of fourteen cities that went as far west as Colorado Springs, and was published in 1903 in a collection entitled Yale Melodies. In the note on the Class of 1898's musical activities in the senior class yearbook, Ives was remembered as the composer of Chapel Chimes.26 The purpose of all this music was to build camaraderie, through singing together in the Glee Club, marching together in a parade, or cutting loose in a fraternity skit.
The music he wrote for use at Yale is in the popular styles of the time. After leaving Yale, however, he wrote several pieces that are about college life at Yale, and especially about the role of music. It was mentioned above that Ives's life experiences became part of his subject-matter for his music. It was while at Yale or shortly thereafter that he first wrote a piece that attempted to capture a slice of life. This was the piece titled Yale-Princeton Football Game, depicting a famous game in 1897. It was apparently composed around 1899 and revised or completed in the late 1910s.27 Like his other pieces that give a retrospective look at Yale, this piece is wildly radical in sound and technique, in comparison to the popular styles of his marches and glees. The reason for this was simple. As he explained in his informal memoirs, published in 1972 as Memos,
when . . . one [is] using "tones" to take off or picture a football game, [how] natural it is to use sound and rhythm combinations that are quite apart from those that would be "regular music." For instance, in picturing the excitement, sounds and songs across the field and grandstand, you could not do it with a nice fugue in C.28
Ives had been experimenting for years with innovative techniques, such as pieces in two or four keys at once. In this, perhaps his first piece of program music, he used a variety of special techniques to stand for events at the football game. The general buzz of movement and conversation in the crowd is suggested by dissonant repeating figures in the strings. Before the game begins, over the buzz of the crowd, we hear brief quotations of college cheers and songs. The cheers are rendered in clusters to suggest a chanting crowd: Yale's "Short Cheer," with nine shouts of "Rah" (in a written-out accelerando of three half-note triplets, four quarter notes, and two quarter-note triplets) followed by three shouts of "Yale" (in half notes), overlapping with "Brek-kek-kek-kek, ko-ax, ko-ax" from The Frogs of Aristophanes (since this is an erudite college crowd). The college songs include the Princeton song "Old Nassau" and Yale songs "Hy-can nuck a no," "Harvard Has Blue Stocking Girls," "Bright College Years" (to the tune of "Die Wacht am Rhein"), and "Hold the Fort, McClung Is Coming" (to the tune of the gospel hymn "Hold the Fort"). Amid all this, the brass plays a phrase from the Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March by David Wallis Reeves, representing the band playing before the game. The referee's whistle is represented by high trills in the piccolo, signaling the kick-off and the end of each play. Other gestures in the music suggest by analogy the motions of players on the field: a bassoon is the quarterback calling numbers ("3—8—26"); slowly rising chords in the horns and scoops in the tuba represent pushing and grunting players; a "dodging halfback" is suggested by an angular melody in the oboe; the flying wedge play is portrayed by musical wedges, chords that contract to a single note or tight cluster of notes; and the electrifying broken-field run for which this game became famous is represented by zig-zagging scales in the trumpets.
It is of crucial importance that this piece combines snippets of familiar music with the very unusual. Representational music has always depended on the unusual, from the tremolos in Vivaldi's Spring Concerto, representing thunder, to the five-minute-long crescendo of activity over an unchanging harmony, representing the swelling of the Rhine, that opens Wagner's Rheingold. Something that far out of the ordinary calls us to interpret it, to try to make sense of what we are hearing, and that can lead naturally into hearing the music as representing something.29 More ordinary music would just sound like music, and would therefore not necessarily suggest to the listener that it represents anything.
In order to create a programmatic work about his experience at Yale, Ives had to include references to things his classmates would recognize and associate with Yale, and nothing fit the bill better than the cheers and tunes he uses in this piece. These remind old Yale men of the camaraderie they shared, of the experiences they had together, through the music they sang and heard. But if the rest of the piece were also in the same popular style, it would just sound like a medley of old tunes. There is such a disjunction in Yale-Princeton Football Game between familiar tunes on the one hand and dissonant figuration depicting the noisy crowd and the running players on the other that no listener can take this music at face value and just hum along. By going against our expectations that music is going to be fairly consistent in style, this piece forces us to think about the music—that is, to interpret it. And it quite easily leads to a picture of a football game in motion, following Ives's program.
Ives recreates in this piece the spirit of his days at Yale: a kind of controlled recklessness, environments in which high spirits and apparent rebelliousness are nonetheless contained inside safe social conventions, as at a football game. Frank Rossiter notes that there was a "curious ambivalence" to college life at Yale.
The students thought of themselves as irresponsibles and hedonists, drinking away their nights at Mory's and enjoying themselves for a brief time until they had to enter the world of work. They created a mood of romance and nostalgia and sang of "bright college years." This mood, however, was largely an illusion, for they were actually caught up in an intensive round of activities . . . not undertaken for the pleasure they gave in themselves, but in order to secure the tangible honors that the system offered.30
In other words, for all their apparent rowdiness, these young men were practicing for their future success. In a way, in this piece, Ives was also practicing for his later work, for the techniques he used here became fundamental elements of his mature music: layering strands of music on top of each other, using dissonant repeating figures to suggest background noises, like the background of a landscape, and using fragments of tunes to suggest the activities of people in the foreground. Similar textures, and similar high spirits, are apparent in two other pieces about Ives's college experience: Calcium Light Night and the Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano.31 The controlled recklessness of Yale college life, rebelliousness without breaching social conventions, is precisely Ives's pattern in his later life in both music and business—innovation within a framework, breaking rules without ever overthrowing the essential conventions of the field. This is the basis for his success, and it is in many ways an extension of his experiences in college.
I have saved for last the question of what Ives learned in his music classes at Yale. In my view, this is where Yale had its most important impact on Ives. He took all of his music courses with Horatio Parker, who was appointed Battell Professor of Music the same year Ives started at Yale as a freshman. The significance of Parker's teaching for Ives's development has not always been obvious. In fact, we can trace an interesting history of the way people have perceived his relationship with Parker, from the simple recognition that Parker was his teacher, to the view that Parker represented a step backwards in Ives's development, to the emerging consensus that Parker's influence was absolutely crucial. Interestingly, the first two ways of viewing Parker's role, opposite as they are, stem from Ives himself.
Ives's transcript shows that he took four courses with Parker: Counterpoint and Instrumentation during his junior year, and Strict Composition and a second year of Instrumentation in his senior year.32 Since Ives mentioned studying harmony with Parker and referred to his "four years with Parker," it has been assumed that he audited Parker's Harmony class as a freshman or sophomore, when as an underclassman he was not permitted to register for electives.33 He never took Parker's Free Composition course but may have audited it. His senior thesis consisted of two movements of his First Symphony, showing his grasp of larger forms.34
Parker was a leading American composer and was particularly well known for large choral works such as the oratorio Hora novissma, which made his reputation at its premiere in 1893. So it was natural that Ives, at the premiere of his own cantata The Celestial Country in New York in 1902, would identify himself to the papers as a Parker student and that the reviewer for the Musical Courier would make a point of mentioning this.35 Ives used his teacher's oratorio as a model. The style is the same, and they have the same mix of ingredients, including choral movements to open and close the work, separate movements for solo singers, solo quartet, and soloists with the choir, antiphonal and a cappella movements, and fugato sections that close by stating the theme in unison. Some similarities are quite close. For example, in each work the third movement is a moderato in D minor in 3/4 time, with a middle section which alternates measures of 4/4 and 3/4. In this middle section, both melodies have a similar rhythm, combine arpeggiation with stepwise motion, and are accompanied by a counterpointing line.36 By claiming Parker as his teacher, Ives was identifying his principal model and establishing his credentials as a student of one of the great American composers of the day.
When Ives published his Concord Sonata and Essays Before a Sonata in early 1921 and distributed them to the press, he again identified himself as a Parker student. Two reviews of these works, a sympathetic review by Henry Bellamann in The Double Dealer and a mystified review by Edwin J. Stringham in the Rocky Mountain News from Denver, quote from letters in which Ives states, "I graduated from Yale and while there studied under the late Prof. Horatio W. Parker— . . . and was organist and choirmaster of the Central Presbyterian church, New York. . . . I received a groundwork in music from my father who believed that all families should be raised on Bach and Beethoven."37 He no longer claims Parker as his chief model—the Concord Sonata is far away from Parker in many respects—but he still identifies Parker as his teacher in order to establish his credentials as a composer, while crediting his father with his initial instruction in music.
Bellamann became well acquainted with Ives in the early 1920s, and his subsequent writings on Ives can be assumed to convey Ives's own stated opinions.38 They show that Ives continued to acknowledge Parker as his teacher and to credit him with thorough instruction in traditional practice, but increasingly stressed the influence of his father George. Bellamann's 1927 article in Pro Musica Quarterly was the first published item on Ives to credit his father with inspiring Ives's interest in musical experimentalism and to cast Parker in the role of a "conservative" who reacted to Ives's experiments with "frosty hostility." Nonetheless, Parker is still credited with training Ives through "four years of fugues, rondos, sonatas, concertos, and symphonies of correctest convention."39 In a subsequent article in Musical Quarterly in 1933, Bellamann again mentions George Ives's experimentation and asserts that "Charles Ives was already a sound musician, trained in harmony, counterpoint and fugue when he entered Yale and took up study with Horatio Parker."40 Yet Parker still plays a very significant role:
Mr. Ives' years at Yale under Horatio Parker were not as unhappy as some notices have suggested. He entertains a hearty respect for his teacher; and though his occasional tonal adventures did not meet with approval, the young composer followed the wishes of his teacher and laid the foundations of a compositional technique that was complete in all details. The "correct" compositions of this period bear ample witness to this.41
Through Bellamann's writings, we can see the way that Ives told the story of what he learned from Parker evolving, from a simple acknowledgment of Parker as his teacher to a more complex view in which he owed to Parker a complete grounding in traditional compositional techniques, building on what he had learned prior to Yale, but owed to his father the more radical and experimental side of his music, a side that Parker resisted.
In the 1930s Ives began to tell the story in a less balanced way. In his Memos from the early 1930s (not published until 1972, but made available to some of his friends and colleagues), he described his time with Parker in rather different terms.42 He gave his father George, not Parker, the credit for laying the foundations of his technique, and college was no more than boring review:
Father had kept me on Bach and taught me harmony and counterpoint from [when I was] a child until I went to college. And there with Parker I went over the same things, even the same harmony and counterpoint textbooks . . ., and I think I got a little fed up on too much counterpoint and classroom exercises. . . .
And I did sometimes do things that got me in wrong. For instance, a couple of fugues with the theme in four different keys, C-G-D-A—and in another, C-F--. It resulted, when it all got going, in the most dissonant sounding counterpoint. Parker took it as a joke (he was seldom mean), and I didn't bother him but occasionally after the first few months. He would just look at a measure or so, and hand it back with a smile, or joke about "hogging all the keys at one meal" and then talk about something else. 43
In this way of telling the story, Ives was bored and stultified under Parker, rather than being aided by his teaching. Ives's father George became the hero, instead:
Besides starting my music lessons when I was five years old, and keeping me at music in many ways until he died, with the best teaching that a boy could have, Father knew (and filled me up with) Bach and the best of the classical music, and the study of harmony and counterpoint etc., and music history. . . .
When I went to New Haven, and took the courses with Professor Horatio W. Parker, . . . I felt more and more what a remarkable background and start Father had given me in music. Parker was a composer and widely known, and Father was not a composer and little known—but from every other standpoint I should say that Father was by far the greater man. Parker was a bright man, a good technician, but apparently willing to be limited by what Rheinberger et al and the German tradition had taught him. After the first two or three weeks in Freshman year, I didn't bother him with any of the experimental ideas that Father had been willing for me to think about, discuss, and try out.44
In this view of things, everything essential to Ives's education came from his father, and Parker was an encumbrance, who sought to limit Ives in the ways Parker himself had been limited by his own training. Ives's years under Parker at Yale were thus a step back, an unfortunate delay in Ives's development. Unlike the picture Ives had given to Bellamann, in which Ives "followed the wishes of his teacher" (Parker) and left Yale having "laid the foundations of a compositional technique that was complete in all details," in this scenario Ives suggests that he arrived at Yale with those foundations already laid, and Parker's instruction was unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.
This is the way the story was told for more than four decades. In a 1939 article on Ives in Musical America, Goddard Lieberson put it bluntly:
This experiment in polytonality [Song for Harvest Season] may or may not have amused Charles Ives's teacher, Horatio Parker. But whether it did or not, it was inevitable that young Ives should have been doing such experimenting. It was inherent to his spirit, and his intellect; an expression of the early training which he had received from his father, who was a bandmaster and music teacher in Danbury, Conn., where Charles Ives was born.
The elder Ives provided his son with an early musical education and doubtless communicated to him some of his own feelings about tonal experimentation. For the senior Ives was a courageous assayer of new musical speech, delving into the possibilities of tone divisions, quarter-tones, polytonality, atonality, and acoustics. . . . At the same time, he trained his son in harmony, counterpoint, and instrumentation, and acquainted him with the best in musical literature.
When Ives entered Yale University in 1894, he was already a well-equipped musician, but he continued his music studies with Dudley Buck (organ) and Horatio W. Parker (composition).45
The importance of George Ives, and the redundancy of Parker, could hardly be better expressed. The story is told in similar terms in other profiles that were published in Ives's lifetime and in the biography by Henry and Sidney Cowell published in 1955, the year after Ives died, and it was still being repeated in the 1975 biography by Frank Rossiter.46
The first chink in this view came in the early 1970s when John Kirkpatrick and Victor Fell Yellin noted Parker's influence on Ives's Celestial Country.47 Then Rosalie Sandra Perry, in her 1974 book Charles Ives and the American Mind, suggested that Ives absorbed some of his ideas about music from Parker's teaching, particularly an idealism about what music could accomplish, and perhaps his fondness for musical borrowing as well.48 In 1980, John Kirkpatrick's article on Ives in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians argued that "the manuscripts show that the counterpoints and canons he did for Parker were at a more demanding level than those for his father" and that "he owed to Parker" the "controlled mastery" of the First Symphony.49 In a 1985 book, I argued that Ives's training with Parker was enormously important for Ives in terms of technique as well as in the realm of ideas. While George Ives taught him how to write a march, it was Parker who introduced him to the long classical forms such as overture, sonata, and symphony. In Danbury he had composed strictly utilitarian music for church, for entertainment, and for genteel concerts, but Parker introduced him to the Romantic concept of music as an art to be appreciated for its own sake, in which a composer with a recognizable personality speaks as an individual to each listener as an individual, rather than serving some utilitarian need. Without this, Ives could never have conceived and written the great sonatas and orchestral works of his maturity. Rather than a step back, his time at Yale with Parker was an essential step forward in his development.50
The last ten years have made Parker's importance for Ives even clearer. In 1987, Maynard Solomon suggested that Ives had attributed so much influence to George Ives in order to deny being influenced by modernist composers such as Mahler and Stravinsky.51 The point could be made even more strongly for Parker. For example, in his Memos Ives attributed the idea of alternating measures of 4/4 and 3/4 to his father; but he used this only once, in the passage of The Celestial Country mentioned above, which was directly modeled on the passage from Parker's Hora novissima that does the same thing (in both cases, the middle section of the third movement).52 Ann Besser Scott has recently shown that Ives used several techniques adapted from Medieval and Renaissance music, such as layering, cantus firmus, stylistic heterogeneity, and streams of parallel chords resembling organum or fauxbourdon, and argues that Ives learned about these procedures in Parker's lectures on music history.53 If this is true, Parker's influence can be found not only in the ways in which Ives's music resembles Parker's own but in many of Ives's most characteristic procedures, used in his experimental music as well as his concert music.54
Solomon's article introduced enough evidence of contradictory datings to call into question Ives's dates for his own music. This made the whole issue of who influenced Ives, and thus of Parker's importance for him, difficult to resolve until it was clarified when Ives wrote what.
Here Yale came to the rescue, in the person of Gayle Sherwood, who received her Ph.D. at Yale in 1995. By providing firm dates for the various kinds of music paper Ives used and developing an astute eye for the various stages of his handwriting, she has been able to date most of Ives's music manuscripts more accurately than was previously possible.55 Her redatings make clear that Ives was not "already a well-equipped musician" in the forms and methods of classical music when he came to Yale and that Parker was crucial for his development. For example, Ives's arrangements for string quartet and for orchestra of piano works by Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann, which John Kirkpatrick dated between 1889 and 1893, are all from around 1898; they are not evidence of George Ives's teaching, but of Parker's, at a time when Ives was taking instrumentation with Parker.56 Ives dated his first orchestral works, an orchestral Postlude in F and the first movement of the First Symphony, in 1895, but both are from ca. 1898.57 Ives took two years of Instrumentation with Parker in his junior and senior years, as mentioned above; if he was capable of writing the first movement of the First Symphony in his freshman year, he would scarcely have needed to take the course.
In her dissertation and a pair of articles, Sherwood has revised the dating of Ives's choral music. In this new chronology, the genres and styles Ives practiced line up neatly with the liturgical requirements and performing forces of the various churches he served as an organist between 1888 and 1902, which provides independent confirmation of the new dates. Once again, Parker emerges as a significant influence; the polished choral anthems Kirkpatrick had dated to Ives's Danbury years, such as Turn Ye, Turn Ye, Easter Carol, and Lord God, Thy Sea is Mighty, are from 1896 or later.58
Even the experimental music is shown in a new light. Ives's reputation as a pioneer of polytonality and other radical new techniques is not in danger; his settings of "London Bridge" with the melody in one key and the accompaniment in a different key and his fugues and canons in four keys all date from between about 1892 and about 1902, well before Stravinsky's Petrushka popularized bitonal effects.59 But the experimental choral works Psalm 67, Psalm 150, Psalm 54, and Psalm 24, which John Kirkpatrick placed in the summer of 1894, are all from the period of about 1898-1902.60 The reason for Kirkpatrick's date was Ives's recollection of working on some of these pieces with his father, who died in 1894, bolstered by Ives's reminiscence of comments his father had made about the opening sonority of Psalm 67 and his observation that "Father, I think, succeeded in getting a choir in Danbury to sing this without an organ."61 But since Ives himself consistently dated Psalm 67 in his works-list at 1898, four years after his father's death, this is most likely a reference, not to Psalm 67 as a piece, but to the opening sonority, which superimposes a C major triad in the women's voices over a G minor triad for the men.62
Redating these experimental psalms from 1894 to 1898 or later once again shows Parker's significance. Rather than showing what Ives had achieved before attending Yale and serving as a kind of capstone to his training with his father, they are responses to his training with Parker.63 Specifically, these pieces work out specific compositional devices in a systematic way, exactly parallel to the training in strict composition in traditional styles that Ives had received from Parker. Whatever experimental bent Ives learned from his father, the desire to work out a technique or effect in a finished, performable work seems to be something he absorbed from Parker. The experiments that can be reliably dated to before 1895 are crude in comparison to these very sophisticated pieces from 1898-1902. The sophistication, the workmanship, and the ability to execute a systematic demonstration of a procedure through composition itself are all indebted to Parker, however far these pieces may be from Parker's manner of composing.
There is a paradox here, that Ives's rule-bending is worked out within a systematic demonstration of new rules, and that his rebellion is carried out within the very traditional framework of a compositional exercise. We have seen a similar paradox in college life at Yale: what I described above as its controlled recklessness, rebelliousness without breaching social convention. It is harmless fun, a respectful tweaking of his elders. He respects the tradition of musical craft and of strict composition, while challenging it from within.
What does Ives owe to Yale? His education from Parker, first and foremost; but second, and just as important, this attitude of innocent rebellion and play, learned in his undergraduate life. It allowed him to produce these experimental works and ultimately to pull together his different influences. If we credit the experimental impulse to Danbury, along with his love of vernacular music and hymns, the training in classical music and the desire to compose systematically are clearly indebted to Parker, and the willingness to break rules within clear boundaries to his college experiences. What made Ives great ultimately was his ability to combine all of these elements together in a coherent and highly individual music. He does not owe this ability to synthesize directly to Parker, nor to George Ives, but he appears to have found it in himself—although his Yale education probably helped. Despite the conformity that both student life at Yale and Parker's teaching tried to enforce, the variety of experiences that Yale gave Ives, from the strictness of a fugue in C major to the rowdiness of a football game, was too great to allow him to conform over the long run. He could not just stay with what Parker taught; he had to go further. He could not turn his back on vernacular music making, as Parker did; he had to encompass everything, to be true to his own past. Once he started mixing these ideas, he could not help but invent the Ivesian language of his mature music.
Yale had the right ingredients for Ives, although it did not find the perfect balance between individualism and community, innovation and tradition. A century later, American higher education is still struggling to find it. It is a singular pleasure of Ives's music that it consistently addresses these tensions. His Third Symphony, for example, captures the communal experience of a camp meeting revival through highly individual music, and it combines the traditional format of a symphony with an innovative new form in the outer movements, in which the theme that is developed throughout is presented, not at the beginning, as in a Beethoven symphony, but at the end, after all that development has made it as welcome, familiar, and satisfying as an old friend.64 Where we expect a symphonic theme to be newly composed and individual, Ives uses instead a common hymn tune, which is community property. Where tradition states that hymn tunes belong in church and symphonies in the concert hall, Ives mixes the two into one, proclaiming the unity of his experience as a person and as a musician, equally at home in both the church and the concert hall. These tensions between individual and community and between innovation and tradition are not entirely resolved in Ives's music, but they are lived through. In this sense, I think Ives gives us a model of how to live with our contradictions.
This examination of Yale's enduring influence on Ives would not be complete without a consideration of Ives's continuing significance for Yale. He is the composer most closely associated in the public's mind with his undergraduate institution. His success as a composer, as a businessman, and as a human being reflects well on his education at Yale, which seems to have given him something he would not have received had he gone elsewhere for college. Obviously, any college would be happy to have a rich and famous alumnus. His capturing of Yale college life in music has preserved it so that we can still enjoy these high-jinks a century later, in a much more immediate way than simply reading a description. In all these ways, Ives is an enduring advertisement for the Yale experience.
But perhaps most important, his Yale experiences and what he did with them later demonstrate something that every college and university should remember. Despite our best attempts to indoctrinate our students with orthodoxy, they will rebel. There is much to be said for allowing and even encouraging that rebellion, within limits of safety and of respect for tradition. I hope Yale continues to provide opportunities for safe rebellion, for trying things out just to see what happens, without worrying too much about what applecarts get upset. What Ives once called, on a manuscript of his Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, "Eli Yale's School for nice bad boys!!" still has an important role to play, as do all schools that in one way or another encourage the testing of convention within the loose boundaries of the school tradition.65 The results can be spectacular.
1The conference was conceived and organized by James B. Sinclair. This paper originated as the keynote address for the conference, on 3 April 1998. Thanks to H. Wiley Hitchcock for reading and commenting on an earlier draft, and to James Sinclair for providing me with a draft of his Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives (New Haven: Yale University Press, forthcoming).
2Information from John Kirkpatrick, "Appendix 13: George Edward Ives (1845-1894) and his family," in Charles E. Ives, Memos, ed. John Kirkpatrick (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), 245 (hereafter Memos); and from Stuart Feder, Charles Ives:"My Father's Song" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 13.
3The story is variously told in Memos, 245; Feder, Charles Ives, 20; and Jan Swafford, Charles Ives: A Life with Music (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), 11-12.
5J. Peter Burkholder, Charles Ives: The Ideas Behind the Music (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 77.
6Feder, Charles Ives, 20.
7Ralph Joseph Moore, Jr., "The Background and the Symbol: Charles E. Ives, A Case Study in the History of American Cultural Expression" (Senior Essay, American Studies Department, Yale College, 1954), 20-21 and 71, and Frank R. Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America (New York: Liveright, 1975), 48.
8Ibid., 22 and 50.
9Feder, Charles Ives, 106-7, 120-21, and 152.
11Mark Tucker, "Of Men and Mountains: Ives in the Adirondacks," in Charles Ives and His World, ed. J. Peter Burkholder (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 170-71.
13See Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 84, and Burkholder, Charles Ives, 76-77.
14See his college transcript, in Memos, 180-82, and Moore, "The Background and the Symbol," 28-29.
15Letter from Charles Ives to Nicolas Slonimsky, 8 May 1931, printed with a facsimile in Tom C. Owens, ed., "Selected Correspondence 1881-1954," in Charles Ives and His World, ed. J. Peter Burkholder (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 230-31. Ives's accent marks include several of his own invention that cannot be reproduced here but can be seen on the facsimile.
16On the dates for these songs, see J. Peter Burkholder, All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 24-25 and 433n31.
17Burkholder, Charles Ives, 72-76.
18Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 68-75. See also Feder, Charles Ives, 133 and 151-61, and Swafford, Charles Ives, 104-7, 116-19, and 129-30.
19Moore, "The Background and the Symbol," 29-30; Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 65, 71, and 75-78.
20Memos, 182. Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 71, notes that the membership of the senior secret societies during Ives's day "contained a much smaller proportion of academically high-ranking students" than found among non-members.
21Moore, "The Background and the Symbol," 67-92.
22Anson Phelps Stokes, "Yale's Growth in Culture," Yale Daily News, 4 June 1895, 2, as quoted in Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 79-80. For the complete editorial, see Moore, "The Background and the Symbol," 93. Rossiter explores at length Ives's concerns about emasculation throughout Charles Ives and His America. For a helpful response that puts Ives's use of gendered language in context, see Judith Tick, "Charles Ives and Gender Ideology," in Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship, ed. Ruth A. Solie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 83-106.
23The character George in Ives's didactic story "George's Adventure," in Memos, 227, criticizes the rigidity and conformity of his college education; his references to a class of 300, "compulsory courses," and "compulsory chapel" suggest that he is speaking of Yale. In Memos, 122-23, Ives repeats a younger man's critique of his training in the Yale School of Music as too conservative. Nowhere does Ives directly criticize Yale in terms as harsh as these.
24On these marches and their dates of composition, see Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 218-24. Each of these marches survives in two versions. The band versions of the first two and a band arrangement by James Sinclair of the third were performed at "Ives & Yale '98" by members of the Yale University Band, conducted by James Sinclair.
25John Kirkpatrick, A Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue of the Music Manuscripts and Related Materials of Charles Edward Ives 1874-1954 (New Haven: Library of the Yale School of Music, 1960; reprint, 1973), 112-13.
26Moore, "The Background and the Symbol," 27; Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 65, 76, and 80. At "Ives & Yale '98," The Whiffenpoofs of 1998 performed A Song of Mory's, The Bells of Yale, and another glee Ives composed while at Yale, The Boys in Blue.
27Date determined by Gayle Sherwood, as reported in Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 342 and 484n4.
28Memos, 40. Editorial brackets by Kirkpatrick.
29On the use of the unusual and unheard-of as a call for interpretation, see J. Peter Burkholder, "Rule-Breaking as a Rhetorical Sign," in Festa Musicologica: Essays in Honor of George J. Buelow, ed. Thomas J. Mathiesen and Benito V. Rivera (Stuyvesant, N.Y.: Pendragon Press, 1995), 361-89.
30Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 70.
31For brief descriptions of these works, see Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 225-26, 240, 343, and 373-74; on Calcium Light Night, see also Feder, Charles Ives, 161-64. Both were performed at "Ives & Yale '98" by Yale students.
32Memos, 181-82. Moore, "The Background and the Symbol," 108, says that Ives took four music courses during his senior year, including Harmony and Free Composition, but these do not appear on the transcript in Memos.
33Memos, 48-49 and 115.
34Kirkpatrick, Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue, 1. A note on a manuscript of Ives's song Abide with Me refers to "2nd theme for Symphony in Parker Free composition class" (not "Fres [i.e., Freshman] composition class" as in Kirkpatrick, Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue, 159), suggesting that Ives composed the symphony in part while auditing Free Composition.
35"Charles E. Ives' Concert and New Cantata, 'The Celestial Country,'" Musical Courier 44, no. 17 (23 April 1902): 34; reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, ed. J. Peter Burkholder (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 276-77.
36Victor Fell Yellin, review of the first recording of The Celestial Country, in Musical Quarterly 60 (July 1974): 500-508; Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 35.
37As quoted by Edward [recte Edwin] J. Stringham, "Ives Puzzles Critics with His Cubistic Sonata and 'Essays,'"Rocky Mountain News (Denver), 31 July 1921, pp. 1 and 17 (quoting from p. 17, with Stringham's ellipses); reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, 284-86 (quotation on pp. 285-86). See also Henry Bellamann, "Reviews: 'Concord, Mass., 1840-1860' (A Piano Sonata by Charles E. Ives)," The Double Dealer 2 (October 1921): 166; reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, 281: "One is still more interested when one is informed that the composer is a Yale graduate, a pupil of Horatio Parker and that he was 'raised on Bach and Beethoven.'"
38On the relationship between Ives and Bellamann, see Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 196-200.
39Henry Bellamann, "The Music of Charles Ives," Pro Musica Quarterly 5, no. 1 (March-April 1927): 16-22; partly reprinted in "Music," by Robina C. Clark, in Danbury Evening News, 6 June 1927.
40Henry Bellamann, "Charles Ives: The Man and His Music," Musical Quarterly 19 (January 1933): 45.
41Ibid., 47; reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, 374.
42On the origins of the Memos, see Kirkpatrick's preface, 16-19. Ives worked on the Memos primarily between 1931 and 1934.
45Goddard Lieberson, "An American Innovator, Charles Ives," Musical America 59, no. 3 (10 February 1939): 22; reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, 378.
46See for example the discussions of George Ives and Horatio Parker in Paul Moor, "On Horseback to Heaven: Charles Ives," Harper's Magazine 197 (September 1948): 66-67, reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, 410-12; Howard Taubman, "Posterity Catches Up with Charles Ives," New York Times Magazine, 23 October 1949, 15, reprinted in Charles Ives and His World, 425-26; Peter Yates, "Charles E. Ives," Arts & Architecture 67, no. 2 (February 1950): 14-15; Henry Cowell and Sidney Cowell, Charles Ives and His Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1955; 2nd ed., 1969), 8, 11-12, and 15-35; and Rossiter, Charles Ives and His America, 13-16 and 37-60.
47See Kirkpatrick's comments in Memos, 49n5 and 62-63n8, and Yellin, review of the first recording of The Celestial Country.
48Rosalie Sandra Perry, Charles Ives and the American Mind (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1974), xvii, 6-12, and 105-6.
49John Kirkpatrick, "Ives, Charles E(dward)," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 1980), 9: 416.
50Burkholder, Charles Ives, 58-66.
51Maynard Solomon, "Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity," Journal of the American Musicological Society 40 (Fall 1987): 450-53.
52Memos, 140; J. Peter Burkholder, "Charles Ives and His Fathers: A Response to Maynard Solomon," Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 18, no. 1 (November 1988): 9. See also Solomon, "Charles Ives," 463.
53Ann Besser Scott, "Medieval and Renaissance Techniques in the Music of Charles Ives: Horatio at the Bridge?," Musical Quarterly 78 (Fall 1994): 448-78.
54J. Peter Burkholder, "Ives Today," in Ives Studies, ed. Philip Lambert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 285.
55Gayle Sherwood, "Questions and Veracities: Reassessing the Chronology of Ives's Choral Works," Musical Quarterly 78 (Fall 1994): 429-47; Sherwood, "The Choral Works of Charles Ives: Chronology, Style, and Reception" (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1995), 1-82, 306-63, and 366-70.
56Kirkpatrick, Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue, 222-23; Sherwood's dates reported in Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 46-47 and 436n12.
57Kirkpatrick, Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue, 1 and 29; Sherwood's dates reported in Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 47 and 441n2 (Postlude in F) and 89 and 446n52 (First Symphony).
58Sherwood, "Questions and Veracities"; Sherwood, "Choral Works"; Gayle Sherwood, "Redating Ives's Choral Sources," in Ives Studies, ed. Philip Lambert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 77-101.
59According to Sherwood, as reported in Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 162-64, 453n26, and 462n2.
60Sherwood, "Redating Ives's Choral Sources," 89-90 and 97-99.
61Memos, 47 and 178.
62For Ives's dating of Psalm 67, see Memos, 148, 153, and 178n3. For an alternative view of Ives's apparent attribution of this piece to a time before George Ives's death, see Philip Lambert, "Communication," Journal of the American Musicological Society 42 (Spring 1989): 204, and Sherwood's comments in "Redating Ives's Choral Sources," 90, which suggest the possibility of an earlier version that does not survive. Since Ives never dated any of the experimental psalms before 1898, it is best to conclude that they did not exist as pieces before then.
63Sherwood makes a similar point in "Redating Ives's Choral Sources," 90.
64See the analysis in Burkholder, All Made of Tunes, 139-54, 238-40, and 244-53.
65Kirkpatrick, Temporary Mimeographed Catalogue, 67.
Last modified on Wednesday, 17/10/2018
J. Peter Burkholder
J. Peter Burkholder is Distinguished Professor of Musicology at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He received his Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Music from the University of Chicago in 1983, after an M.A. in composition there and an A.B. in Music from Earlham College. In addition to the most recent editions of A History of Western Music and of Norton Anthology of Western Music, he is the author of Charles Ives: The Ideas Behind the Music and All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing and editor of Charles Ives and His World and Charles Ives and the Classical Tradition (with Geoffrey Block). His articles range from Ives to Brahms, fifteenth-century masses, Berg, Schoenberg, modernism, musical borrowing, and musical meaning, and have appeared in Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music Theory Spectrum, Musical Quarterly, Journal of Musicology, 19th-Century Music, College Music Symposium, and Music Library Association Notes, among others. He wrote the articles on Ives, on borrowing, and several on other topics for The New Grove Dictionary, 2nd ed. His research has won many awards, including the Alfred Einstein Award from the American Musicological Society, The Irving Lowens Award (twice) from the Society for American Music, and the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He is President of The Charles Ives Society and has served as President, Vice President, and Director-at-Large of the American Musicological Society and former Board Member for Musicology for the College Music Society.