Charles Ives

Born October 20, 1874 in Danbury, Connecticut
Died May 19, 1954 in New York, New York




Modern 1920-Present


The Unanswered Question, Three Places in New England, Variations on America, and Concord Sonata

Charles Ives


Ives was a truly original American composer. Although he played pianoorgan, cornet, violin, and drums, he never made a living as a composer or a musician. In fact, he ran a very successful insurance agency by day (he invented the concept of estate planning), and at night he would hurry home to write music. He also was a huge baseball fan and played many sports such as baseball, football, track, and tennis. He often tried to recreate the everyday sounds he heard both in the city and the country.

In one part of his favorite piece, Holiday Symphony, the sounds of a small-town celebration are heard: competing marching bands, political discussions, fireworks, and even women unloading picnic baskets. Ives loved to borrow material from other people such as old hymns, cowboy songs, Christmas carols, spirituals, and even the theme from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and use them in new ways. He was famous for composing music for solo piano, orchestra, chamber music, and songs for voice.