reading notes

Ives’s techniques: “simultaneous clashes of different meters and keys, odd rhythms and syncopations, “synthetic chords,” and microtones” are used to create more “directly natural sonic events than from an interest in gadgets for their own sake”

The fifth in the sonata “carries from movement to movement and, according to the composer, calls to mind nothing less than ‘the Soul of humanity knocking at the door of the Divine mysteries, radiant in the faith that it will be opened – and the human become the Divine!’”

Beethoven and transcendentalists are together as “spiritual pilgrims”

More focused on meaning behind than the sonata form/structure

His rhythm is a “rhythm of prose”, specifically emerson’s

Music works for revelation in the moment

Fifth in “Emerson”: “lightening bolts of prophecy”, “stormy, dreamy, frenzied, hymn-like”

“Hawthorne” Second movement. Purpose: relentless of guilt, elves in forest, puritan past, Hawthorn-great recorder of 19th century.

“Alcotts” Third movement. Sentiment and tenderness

Alcotts-Aunt Sarah-took in orphans and worked all day, hiked to prayer meeting-divine. “Significantly, it is in “The Alcotts” that Beethoven’s quote begins as a parlor song and ends with a grand, full statement in ringing C Major”

Begins with first four notes motive as a “Parlor song” then ends as grand C major.

Thoreau” Fourth Movement. Hints of Beethoven.

Flute in sonata: includes flute that uses Beethoven’s quote in full form for only time in piece.

Why a flute in a piano sonata? “ As Ives said, “Is it the composer’s fault that man has only ten fingers?”’

Flute represents Thoreau-who played it.

Movement is about simplicity and “plain speaking” and Ive’s theories of a music of “pure substance” (classicalnet)

History of Ives:

  • father taught him to sing in one key while he accompanied in another
  • who tells the boy he can write any chord as long as he knows the reason for it”
  • Experimenting when everyone tells him he’s crazy
  • began as organist
  • attended Yale for music
  • composed European-Romantic Symphony No. 1 and string quartet
  • “George Ives told his son Charlie that any music, from the grandest symphony to a sentimental song sung in a parlor to a barroom piano belting out ragtime, if it is earnest and authentic in the doing, is a manifestation of something deeply human.”
  • paint pictures of exaltation, music to touch heart and soul
  • Wrote proper pieces and experimental
  • resigned form church to focus on experimental work-abjured sonata and symphony, said ‘“The nice German recipe,” he growled. “To hell with it!”’
  • concord sonata-sonata in Beethoven tradition
  • surface and substance


“the ambivalence Ives felt toward the composer that he believed came nearest his ideal,” noting further that “Ives’s reverence for Beethoven was tempered by competition” (p. 4).

1. Ives’s Love for Beethoven

2. In this thesis, I will examine and explore Charles Ives’s fascination and use of Beethoven. Specifically, I will analyze his Concord Sonatas, in which Beethoven’s Fifth is quite prominent. From ideas to beliefs of transcendentalism to sheer love for the first four note, Ives’s love for Beethoven will be revealed.

3. Sources thus far:

Schwartz, Steve. “‘Concord’ Sonatas.” 1996. ClassicalNet.

Examines each movement, analyzing the use of Beethoven’s first four notes in each. In addition, he provides a background to each movement, going into detail of how the stories behind the piece fit in with the music and themes.

Swafford, Jan. “This Great American Composer.” 2009.

This explore’s Ives’s history and what lead him to become the exuberant composer he was. Giving insight into what molded his musical mind, the article also analyses his works, including the use of Beethoven in the Concord Sonatas.

Block, Geoffrey Holden, and J. Peter Burkholder. Charles Ives and the Classical Tradition. New Haven: Yale UP, 1996. Print.

This book about Ives goes into detail about Ives and his music. Spending many pages on the use of the first four notes, Block explores the idea behind it and how everything musically fit together.

Denk, Jeremy. “Flight of the Concord.” The New Yorker, February 6, 2012.

Schiff, David. “The Many Faces of Ives.” The Atlantic, January 1, 1997.

4. Charles Ives was an American composer, transcendentalist, and insurance salesman. Working a steady job, he had the financial stability to form a creative outlet through composing music that was, as some consider, too early for his time, if at all ever. His most famous work, the Concord Sonatas, contain an extensive quoting of Beethoven’s Fifth symphony’s first four notes. Ives’s relationship with Beethoven is clearly a great fandom,  as the Fifth shapes his sonatas. Although Ive’s may have used the first four notes as a dedication to the great composer, there is evidence that points to a deeper meaning beneath the surface including beliefs and musical themes.

thesis ideas

1. Beethoven in Charles Ives’s compositions. Beethoven’s Fifth is a prominent theme in Ive’s music, specifically his concord piano sonatas, in which the first four notes are inserted. Ives’s use of Beethoven can be interpreted in many ways; does Ives quote him for his ideas and beliefs relating to transcendentalism, meaning behind the four notes including fate and triumph, or just for the sheer fandom of the composer.

2. Beethoven’s portrayal in movies. Beethoven’s Fifth has been a common aspect in movie soundtracks, being a sample constantly inserted to evoke a certain emotion or atmosphere. The effect and logic for doing so has changed over time for many reasons. The first four notes notate a dark, intense moment, or in other cases, melancholy and sad, therefore the way in which the music is portrayed in the scene effects the emotional triggered result, however the background the fifth holds is the main reason why these samples are used in the first place.

3. Beethoven’s use of silence in his compositions. Beethoven’s works include many silences for dramatic and structural purposes. The placement of the silences aid in the overall intensity and emotion of the pieces and express his intentions. However, the meaning of silences can be interpreted in many ways, as we do not have the means of knowing what he intended them to express.


4. Beethoven’s family relations effect on his music.

5. Beethoven’s love life through music.

6. Beethoven’s Sixth and musical themes & moods contrasting with the Fifth.

7. Beethoven’s influence on popular music.

8. The effects of Beethoven during war time.

9.Beethoven as a many interpreted symbol.


Hulse’s chapter on Beethoven’s Egmont in his thesis outlined his points very well. His writing style was a little casual and included many sentence interruptions such as “, it would seem,”, which disrupted the flow of the piece. In addition, he stated many of his opinionated sentences with an “I believe” or “I think”, which takes away from the certainty and confidence in his own beliefs. The structure was very clear, he had a introduction, mid paragraphs, and conclusion, with many figures to reference such as charts and musical passages. His paragraphs followed a claim, data, warrant pattern, allowing readings an easy path to follow to understand his thoughts. Many sources were used, and most of the people referenced were criticized. Hulse would often bring up a critique and say they wrote something about the topic, then comment on how they failed in something of the matter. A criticizing tone was in place, however it aided in painting a clear picture of what he wanted to say. Another point used in his writing was the concept of “In this chapter, I will…” or “I aim to…” which I found a little repetitive and dragged out. Instead of discussing what he is going to do for thirteen pages, he use the first few to do so and the rest for his analysis. On a positive note, his musical descriptions of Beethoven’s music were helpful on both levels of technical and imagery terms. The providing of musical passages allows for a clear visual to assist in giving the readers examples. Finally, Hulse has proven he has a deep love for the word “indeed”. It is actually my favorite word, however he took it too far by using it 46 times in the chapter.