Hearing Cycles

Richard Taruskin

in On Russian Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249790
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942806 | DOI:
Hearing Cycles

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This chapter tries to express the Essays Before a Sonata in terms of music. The value of anything, material, moral, intellectual, or spiritual, is usually expressed in terms other than music. Charles Ives was interested in using music as a medium for interpreting or commenting, in his Second Piano Sonata, on the writings of the New England Transcendentalist philosophers. Among the ways he found for doing this was to cite prominently in every movement a musical motif that symbolized the essence of Transcendentalism, not only for him but for any listener he could imagine. That motif was the four-note motto that launches Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on its blazing transcendental course. Beethoven, in conversation with his disciple Schindler, had identified the motto as Fate knocking at the door. In his Essays, Ives refined the image, in the light of Transcendentalism, to become Man knocking on the door of Heaven, confident that it will be opened to him.

Keywords: Ives and Schindler; Beethoven motto; symphony; Second Piano Sonata; New England philosophers

Chapter.  8424 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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