Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day

It’s that day again, the Fourth of July, so here is a live performance of the third movement of Charles Ives’s Holidays Symphony, the movement called “The Fourth of July”: six minutes or so of celebratory dissonance. 

According to Robert Greenberg the piece is “cacophonous, wonderfully crazy and includes everything and the kitchen sink”. You might recognise some of the tunes quoted, among them “Yankee Doodle”, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Marching Through Georgia”. Underneath it all is “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean”. Ives (whose wife’s name was, wonderfully, Harmony) could afford to write to please himself. Quote unquote:
He had zero tolerance […] for the wimps and mollycoddles who shuddered, or worse, hissed, at new music. He was famous for standing up at concerts and bellowing at such offenders, “Stand up and take your dissonance like a man.”

The movement had its premiere in Paris  in February 1932. That was 82 years ago, so don’t tell me this music is difficult:

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