Charles Ives was an American composer who lived from 1874 - 1954.
Charles was always looking for ways to make new and unusual sounds through the music he composed, and he sure did succeed! For example, he composed music where the ensemble plays several different songs all at once. He also composed music in different time signatures and key signatures to be played together. . . Often times this sounded like a big jumbled mess!
As you can imagine, not everyone responded well to these new sounds Charles was creating. Charles never seemed to be too bothered by this though. In fact, one story says that when someone complained about the sour notes in his music (called dissonance - notes that are too close together so they make a sour sound), Charles Ives reportedly responded,
So we will do just that.
This is a piece called Variations on America and it was written when Charles was only 17 years old working as a church organist. Though it was originally written for organ, it was later reorchestrated for band.
In this piece, Charles takes a familiar tune, America, and changes elements to make it sound different than we are used to hearing. As you listen, see if you can figure out what changes were made in the music to make it sound more interesting. Was it tempo? Dynamics? Meter? Changing what instruments are playing?
Now You Try
Pick any song. Try to come up with as many ways as you can think of to make it sound different than you are used to. You could change some words, you could sing it faster or slower, you could make up a clapping pattern to accompany it. . . The sky is the limit!
Patriotic, playful, and full of unusual sounds. That sums up the music of Charles Ives.
Enjoy your breakfast and remember to take your dissonance like a man!