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Charles Ives Essay

A Symphony: New England Holidays, also known as A New England Holiday Symphony or in the simplest terms a Holiday Symphony, is a composition for orchestra written by Charles Ives. It took Ives from 1897 to 1913 to complete all four movements. What a difference from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue huh? It only took Gershwin one train ride to think up that piece! Then again, this is a 4 movement composition. The 4 movements in order are, I. Washington’s Birthday

II. Decoration Day
III. The Fourth of July
and
IV. Thanksgiving
Just by reading these titles you can sort of guess at what the entire composition symbolizes. These 4 movements coincide with each season; winter, spring, summer, and fall. While together these pieces are called a symphony, they may be played individually and thought of as separate works which is probably why it was so hard for me to find all of them on Youtube! I found a quote from Ives which says, “…There is no special musical connection among these four movements…which leads me to observe that quite a number of larger forms (symphonies, sonatas, suites, etc.) may not always necessarily form, or were originally intended to form, such a complete organic whole that the breath of unity is smothered all out if one or two movements are played separately sometimes.” Believe it or not I understand this quote. Or at least I think I do. He’s saying that all pieces with movements that are joined together to create one whole piece, are sometimes, in his opinion, not really meant to be a whole in the first place. Maybe they even make more sense separately. Holiday Symphony exemplifies Ives’s varied, unique use of dissonance that gave his works a more dynamic range of emotion. “Each movement expresses its particular scene and feeling using the mingling of stylistic voices, that had become second nature to Ives. They all contain the shared “pattern of splicing introverted slow music and extroverted fast music.” Listening to...