The children's hour: the thematic use of childhood in the songs of Charles Ives
This analytical study considers a group of songs by the American composer Charles Ives in terms of a thematic unity, childhood, and examines their unified variety through the prism of philosophical and societal dynamisms that shaped their singular author. Though not Ives's defining or most challenging works, these twenty-one songs of children and childhood nonetheless comprise some of his truest, concisely representing the convergence of his musical and philosophical influences. Protestantism, modernism, Americanism, and transcendental humanism form Ives's philosophical bedrock, and success in understanding his thinking lies in taking for granted the dialectic interconnectedness of these four tectonic ideologies as Ives did, not in critiquing his often polemical written expressions of any one of them. The present study endeavors to explain this interconnectedness related to the songs in question first as a means to understanding his compositional amalgam of styles as a unified whole, and second as a way of explaining the primary and seemingly contradictory dualisms that defined Ives's career and life: tradition and progress, substance and manner related to musical content and form, cultivated and vernacular musical style. Considered here, these songs belong to one of three groups distinguished by narrative perspective, that of the child, that of the parent, and that of the sentient being---sons and daughters of our country and children of God. Most listeners identify on a very personal level with all three of these groups, though not necessarily through direct experience, and Ives explored this intimate universality with unique, metaphysical veracity. Chapter one briefly reviews the biographical facts of Ives's childhood and adolescence, specifically noting the sources, nature, and historical development of his foundational ideologies; chapter two considers the songs by children; chapter three, the songs by parents; chapter four, the songs by the sentient being.
- Music