Charles Ives is rarely more than a curiosity in most music histories. He is invariably called the “father of American music”, which sounds (wrongly!) a little like being famous for inventing Russian red wine: it may exist, but …. And that’s an unfortunate misconception. Ives is a peerless genius, and a top-flight innovator: he was writing atonal music before Schoenberg in Austria, experimenting with quarter tones before Haba in Czechoslovakia, designing polyrhythmic constructions before Stravinsky in Russia, thinking up music for multiple simultaneous orchestras before Stockhausen in Germany, and writing postmodern compositions more than a half century before that word was even invented in Europe. Admittedly, being the first to do something is not what counts in the arts, but that’s the point: Ives was not only the first, he was also an excellent composer! It’s high time we let his voice sound a bit louder. And ask a few questions about the way we ‘make’ music history in Europe.
"Why tonality as such should be thrown out for good, I can’t see. Why it should always be present I can’t see. It depends, it seems to me, a good deal – as clothes depend on the thermometer – on what one is trying to do, and on the state of mind, the time of day or other accidents of life." – Charles Ives (Some ‘Quarter Tone’ Impressions, 1925)
> 20:30 Lecture in Dutch ánd in English
Pieter Bergé is professor of Musicology at KU Leuven and artistic director of Festival 20·21. Aside from academic work, he also frequently writes texts for amateurs. Recently, an illustrated music history for youngsters (Hoe groen klinkt een gitaar?) and an essay on the ‘inaccessible’ music of the 20th century (Wat valt er eigenlijk te begrijpen?) have been published. Both books have been awarded a KLARA prize for best music publication.