All Aboard! Five Pieces Inspired by Trains

Music reflects the sounds of the time. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, music was centered around the human voice and the motion of the body through dance. Music of the eighteenth century emerged from the pastoral sounds of nature, hunting horns, and the bugle calls of the battlefield. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, music got louder and more discordant amid the mechanized roar of the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps electricity and computers inform …

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The 2021 Classical Grammys

The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony took place in Los Angeles Sunday evening. Here are excerpts from the winning albums in the classical categories: Best Orchestral Performance “Ives: Complete Symphonies” — Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic) This album features the four numbered symphonies of Charles Ives. The “New England Holidays” is not included. We sense an exciting artistic progression from the relatively conservative Symphony No. 1, completed in 1902 in response …

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Ives’ “The Housatonic at Stockbridge”: The Eternal River of Time

On a June weekend in 1908, Charles Ives and his wife, Harmony Twichell, vacationed in the rolling Berkshire Hills. A hiking trip led the newly married couple by the Housatonic River near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Ives recalled, We walked in the meadows along the river, and heard the distant singing from the church across the river. The mist had not entirely left the river bed, and the colors, the running water, the banks …

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Ives’s Three Quarter-Tone Pieces: Adventures in Microtonality

Quarter tones occupy the narrow spaces halfway between the pitches of the chromatic scale. In other words, they are approximately half as wide as a semitone. Venture into their colorful domain, and you arrive in a wild new microtonal universe which expands the expressive possibilities of tuning and tonal color. Traditional Persian music is filled with quarter tones. These intervals also can be found in numerous works by twentieth century composers. Charles Ives’ father, George, …

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Charles Ives’ “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day”

Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day is the final movement of Charles Ives’ Holiday Symphony, a work the composer conceived as much as a collection of four stand-alone, atmospheric tone poems as a unified symphony. Completed in 1904, Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day grew out of an organ prelude and postlude Ives composed and performed for a Thanksgiving service at Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut. We can only imagine how the congregation might have reacted to Ives’ adventurous …

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Joyful Sounds of Praise: Five Musical Settings of Psalm 150

Today marks the 1,000th post of The Listeners’ Club. In celebration of this milestone, I want to thank our growing community of readers and subscribers, and all who take time to comment and share this incredible music with friends. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the firmament of His power. Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His abundant greatness. Praise Him with the blast of the …

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Charles Ives’ “A Set of Pieces for Theatre Orchestra”: Radical Sounds from 1906

In 1906, Gustav Mahler had just completed his cosmic Eighth Symphony, Sibelius’ final four symphonies were yet to be written, the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Firebird was still four years away, and Arnold Schoenberg had just begun to take the first tentative steps into atonality. The ethereal soundscapes of Olivier Messiaen and the jazzy, soulful orchestral scores of George Gershwin remained decades away. Yet listen to Charles Ives’ A Set of Pieces for Theatre Orchestra, written between 1899 and 1906, and …

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