Charles Ives, Seven Songs (Adapted by the yesaroun' Duo)

Charles Ives printed his 114 songs privately in 1922. This collection of songs illustrates his eclectic style, ranging from the abstract to the everyday. Ives included some thoughts on the solo song in the Postface of the publication:

"A song has a few rights, the same as other ordinary citizen. If it feels like walking along the left-hand side of the street, passing the door of physiology or sitting on the curb, why not let it?.... should it not have a chance to sing itself, if it can sing? - to enjoy itself without making a bow, if it can't make a bow? - to swim around in any ocean, if it can swim, without having to swallow 'hook and bait,' or being sunk by an operatic greyhound? If it happens to feel like trying to fly where humans cannot fly, to sing what cannot be sung, to walk in a cave on all fours, or to tighten up its girth in blind hope and faith and try to scale mountains that are not, who shall stop it? - in short, must a song always be a song!"

Ives recalled instances of his father, playing Franz Schubert and Steven Foster songs on his horn with great success, allowing the audience to "feel" the words through the music rather than actually hearing them sung. In fact, Ives originally conceived many of his songs for solo instrument and accompaniment, with the text written underneath the music [Kirkpatrick, Memos 1972]. For these reasons, Yesaroun' feels that a presentation of these songs through tenor saxophone and marimba is in harmony with Ives' philosophy.

We encourage you to follow along with the text as you listen. The melody usually follows the text syllable by syllable, so even though the words are absent from the performance, it is easy to follow along.

1. Remembrance
A sound of a distant horn,
O'er shadowed lake is born,
my father's song.

2. Maple Leaves
October turned my maple's leaves to gold;
The most are gone now;
here and there one lingers:
Soon these will slip from out the twigs' weak hold,
like coins between a dying miser's fingers.

3. The Side Show
"Is that Mr. Riley, who keeps the hotel?"
is the tune that accomp'nies the trotting track bell;
An old horse unsound, turns the merry-go-round,
making poor Mr. Riley look a bit like a Russian dance,
some speak of so highly, as they do of Riley!

4. Serenity
O, Sabbath rest of Galilee!
O, calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with Thee,
the silence of eternity
Interpreted by love.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease:
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess,
the beauty of thy peace.

5. Memories
A. Very Pleasant
We're sitting in the opera house, the opera house, the opera house;
We're waiting for the curtain to arise with wonders for our eyes;
We're feeling pretty gay, and well we may, "O, Jimmy, look!" I say,
"The band is tuning up and soon will start to play."
We whistle and we hum, beat time with the drum.
We're sitting in the opera house, the opera house, the opera house,
awaiting for the curtain to rise with wonders for our eyes,
a feeling of expectancy, a certain kind of ecstasy,
expectancy and ecstasy, expectancy and ecstasy
SSHHHHHHssssss. Curtain!
B. Rather Sad
From the street a strain on my ear doth fall,
A tune as thread bare as that "old red shawl,"
It is tattered, it is torn, it shows signs of being worn,
it's the tune my Uncle hummed from early morn,
'Twas a common little thing and kind'a sweet,
But 'twas sad and seemed to slow up both his feet;
I can see him shuffling down to the barn or to the town,
a humming.

6. Two Little Flowers
On sunny days in our backyard, Two little flowers are seen,
One dressed, at times, in brightest pink and one in green.
The marigold is radiant, the rose' passing fair;
The violet is ever dear, the orchid ever rare;
There's loveliness in wild flow'rs of field or wide savannah,
But fairest, rarest of the all are Edith and Susanna.

7. Slow March (written by Ives at age 12 in memory of his dog)
One evening just at sunset we laid him in the grave;
Although a humble animal his heart was true and brave.
All the family joined us, in solemn march and slow,
from the garden place beneath the trees
and where the sunflowers grow.

Born in Danbury, Connecticut on 20 October 1874, Charles Ives pursued what is perhaps one of the most extraordinary and paradoxical careers in American music history. Businessman by day and composer by night, Ives's vast output has gradually brought him recognition as the most original and significant American composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, Ives sought a highly personalized musical expression through the most innovative and radical technical means possible. A fascination with bi-tonal forms, polyrhythms, and quotation was nurtured by his father who Ives would later acknowledge as the primary creative influence on his musical style. Studies at Yale with Horatio Parker guided an expert control over large-scale forms.

Ironically, much of Ives's work would not be heard until his virtual retirement from music and business in 1930 due to severe health problems. The conductor Nicolas Slonimsky, music critic Henry Bellamann, pianist John Kirkpatrick (who performed the Concord Sonata at its triumphant premiere in New York in 1939), and the composer Lou Harrison (who conducted the premiere of the Symphony No. 3) played a key role in introducing Ives's music to a wider audience. Henry Cowell was perhaps the most significant figure in fostering public and critical attention for Ives's music, publishing several of the composer's works in his New Music Quarterly.

In 1947, Ives was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 3, according him a much deserved modicum of international renown. Soon after, his works were taken up and championed by such leading conductors as Leonard Bernstein and, at his death in 1954, he had witnessed a rise from obscurity to a position of unsurpassed eminence among the world's leading performers and musical institutions.


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