Class: American Masters

If You Think You Hate Charles Ives On His Birthday

Not that I’m referring to anyone in particular who might have mourned the anniversary of Ive’s birth today on social media. But if you don’t do quarter-tones and all those other “intellectual” aspects of Ive’s instrumental music, there could be hours of pleasure in store for you in his deceptively simple songs.

I’m sitting in a search marketing conference right now, so I can’t say much. But the songs are catchy, melodic and walk a tightrope between the satirical and the sentimental.

Preview - Charles Ives: Songs by Jan DeGaetani and Gilbert Kalish - Rhapsody lets you listen to 20 full tracks per months without joining or paying. This wonderful album is a worthy use of those freebies.

For a totally free Ives song session, here is a wonderful playlist where you can listen to some of the songs and watch a scrolling score. The singing on this playlist is not always ideal (Ives songs are a student recital staple) but it’s a convenient way to get familiar with these songs.


“The Circus Band” is a favorite. I like it better as a song (and PLEEZ, pianists, DO shout “Hear the trombones” at the appointed time - really) but some prefer this totally raucus orchestra/chorus arrangement by Ives, performed here by a school group under the helm of Michael Tippett:

Sanskrit or English? Oddly, It Doesn't Much Matter-A Postscript to My Satyagraha Post

The Met’s study guide for Satyagraha asked the reader to consider Glass’s decision to set the original Sanskrit, rather than an English translation. I think it is a sound decision, despite the fact that it would appear to be motivated by essentially the same factors which prompted Stravinsky to set Oedipus Rex in Latin. Latin, not Greek!

Satyagraha-Pro and Contra

For the first time in my life I listened today, with undivided attention, to Philip Glass’s Satyagraha, in an admirable performance from the Met. I carefully read the quite helpful study materials available from the Met’s website. My point of view is likely to be less valuable than that of a Glass aficionado, since love is a prerequisite for understanding. Furthermore, my comments may either seem like a betrayal to those who agree with my customary aesthetic agendae, or insufficiently laudatory to those who already esteem this work. This post is likely to please no one, more’s the pity.

A Tale of Dvorak in Two Cities

Those taking John’s upcoming Dvorak Class may expect to learn about the composer’s place in the “nationalism in music” movement that swept through Europe in the 19th century. But one of the more interesting parts of Dvorak’s biography is his championing of an American nationalism in music during his time in the United States in the 1890s.