In a June 1 post at, Jan Swafford makes his case for why we should listen to the music of Charles Ives. “If you’re the keyboard-prodigy son of an imaginative small-town bandmaster father who, in the 1880s, teaches his son to sing in one key while he accompanies in another; who tells the boy he can write any chord as long as he knows the reason for it … if you’ve got the guts to keep experimenting with the materials of music when everybody, but everybody, tells you you’re crazy—then you’re in the direction of a Charles Ives. Except no important composer had a background like Ives’, with its mingling of the traditional and radical, small-town and sophisticated.” Swafford mentions the New World Symphony’s four-night Ives festival in February, while praising the Symphony No. 4 (which got a performance this March by the Boston Symphony Orchestra) as Ives’s “greatest completed work—the boldest in conception, the most universal in theme, the grandest in execution… The Symphony No. 4 is a work of universal religion, made from the concrete stuff of everyday American music and life but leaving our gaze turned upward.”

Posted June 3, 2009