Celebration of composer Charles Ives is nod to students' ambitions

By Jessica Cook | Emory Report | Feb. 20, 2013

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An entire weekend is devoted to American composer Charles Ives, with lectures and concerts celebrating his music and his life. Photo by Eric Richards.

Emory celebrates American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954) in lectures and a weekend of concerts, Feb. 23-24.

Charles Ives flier

Ives, who was an insurance salesman by day and composer by night, occupies a unique position in music history. Scott Stewart, Emory's director of wind studies, says his compositions have often been misunderstood and dismissed as “experimental” but today he is regarded as one of the most original and influential American composers of all time.

An entire weekend devoted to a single composer is unusual, but Stewart says a number of reasons are behind the celebration. Among them, the fact that Ives pursued his musical ambition while working a successful insurance career seems particularly suited to Emory. Stewart says he typifies Emory's student who double-majors—as seen in the Emory Wind Ensemble roster of dedicated music students who also major in fields such as biology, business, chemistry, political science and English.

The Emory Wind Ensemble concert on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. and the chamber recital on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. feature repertoires illustrating traditions drawn upon by Ives—American popular music, European classical music, church songs, and experimental music—as well as his hallmark compositional techniques.

Stewart says the Saturday concert of band music will present Ives' tuneful early works and his more advanced works, which include cumulative form—“a technique of presenting bits and pieces of familiar tunes and not playing the whole song until the end.” Emory teaching affiliate Laura Gordy, piano, with graduate student Jonathan Easter, organ, perform in the Sunday chamber recital.

Ives scholar J. Peter Burkholder, author of several books on Ives and distinguished professor of music and chair of musicology at Indiana University, will be in residence Feb. 20-24. Burkholder presents "Charles Ives' Music About Music" for the Department of Music's McDowell Lecture Series on Friday, Feb. 22 in the Performing Arts Studio at 1 p.m. Burkholder will also visit music classes and work with the Wind Ensemble.