Ives Vocal Marathon Day 2

January 30, 2009 at 7:33 am

The Ives vocal marathon was in full swing today. I had breakfast and was joined by Peter Burkholder and the Dickinsons. Gayle Magee’s flight was delayed so the first talk was with Christopher Bruhn, and Peter Dobkin Hall (who later roasted me for recalling Ives materials from the Harvard library — Sorry Peter!) The issue of the day was cosmology and Jamesian understandings of Ives. As many have noted there is this problem with establishing whether or not Ives ever read James directly but there is definitely the sense that he was “in the air” during Ives’s time. Fascinating issues about historical epistemology were raised.

After a short buffet lunch, some composers took the mic to talk about their relationship with Ives. The charasmatic Anthony Braxton spoke in long, rhapsodic sentences of Ives’s influence on his world view; a piece by Martin Bresnick was also played.

Then the concerts started. One of the more interesting things about this series is the incorporation of decidedly different performing styles within a single program, which serves to heighten the stylistic heterogeneity of Ives’s songs. Gary Harger’s performances tended towards the theatrical, even including a rum bottle as a prop (and of course the requisite kazoos) in “Son of a Gambolier.” Johana Arnold gave stunning performances of Brahms and Schubert alongside Ives’s lied, with her delicate yet space-filling soprano.  David Barron and Elizabeth Saunders were equally capable and expressive – I should like to hear more of Barron who only sang a few songs today.

Yours truly participated in a short panel about current directions in Ives scholarship, which was over in a blink of an eye but afforded me the chance to say hello to Matthew McDonald again and meet Kara Gardner.

Gayle Sherwood Magee gave a brilliant overview of her new book after the second concert, and I should have liked to talk with her at greater length but apparently she has to get back to Illinois this morning. I highly recommend her Charles Ives Reconsidered to anyone who wants a flyover – but also some new insights – into recent problems in Ives biography.

The evening ended with a performance of the Wesleyan Gamelan, which has assumed a kind of mythic status in my mind since my introductory course in Ethnomusicology at Harvard was taught by Kay Shelemay.

It is definitely a schedule that demands almost everything of the participants, but I couldn’t help but read with morose fascination the AMS-L thread on the collapsing Job Market. Et in arcadia ego …

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Ives Vocal Marathon – Day 1 Ives Vocal Marathon, Day 3


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