Charles (Edward) Ives (b. Danbury, Connecticut, 1874; d. NY, 1954), American composer, one of the most extraordinary and individual figures in the history of Western music. In his works, many of the innovatory and radical procedures adopted by younger avant-garde composers are anticipated or foreshadowed in some degree. He experimented with tone clusters, polytonality, quartertones, serial composition, polyrithmics and acoustics, and anticipated aleatoric procedures.
He entered Yale University in 1894, studying organ and composition. In 1898 he graduated and moved to NY as a clerk in an insurance co., taking up several organist posts. In 1907 he and a friend formed their own insurance agency, which became very successful. Ives divided his time between business and mus., working long hours and damaging his health. From 1910 to 1918 Ives was at his most prolific, working on several compositions simultaneously. In 1918 he was seriously ill, sustaining cardiac damage; he gradually reduced his business activities, retiring in 1930, and he composed little new after 1917, devoting the rest of his life to revising his compositions. The most significant works: Concord Sonata for piano, symphonies, etc.
Three Quarter-Tone Pieces
Ives crafted the Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos in 1924 from sketches he made in 1904-1914. His curiosity about extensions of standard tuning came naturally. Ives’ father was a notorious tinkerer and loved to experiment with sound: “… my father had a weakness for quarter- tones.” Ultimately the three movements are an homage to his inventive father.