Four American Styles: Pioneers & Individualists

There have been many pioneers in the history of American music, the most notable being Charles Ives. His romanticism found expression in works of an eclectic, experimental character: try the Second Symphony, or Three Places in New England (1914).

Ives composed Three Places – or New England Symphony, as he called it – in 1914 for full orchestra but, like so much of his music, it lay undisturbed until 1929. In the presence of the composer this visionary music was performed, having been extensively reorchestrated in 1931, sounding as fresh then as it would have done at any time in the previous 17 years.

Cowell developed many new ways of using instruments in such works as Aeolian Harp (1923) in which the pianist strums on the strings. Ruggles was also a staunch individualist who was in regular contact with Edgard Varèse, whose Intégrales of 1925 was something of a watershed. Harry Partch (1901-74) adopted his own system of tuning (‘just intonation’) and then devised his own spectacular set of instruments for it.

Classic CD magazine, 1995

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