Beauty in music is too often confused with something that lets the ear lie back in an easy chair. Many sounds that we are used to do not bother us, and for that reason we are inclined to call them beautiful. Frequently -- possibly almost invariably -- analytical and impersonal test will show that when a new or unfamiliar work is accepted as beautiful on its first hearing, its fundamental quality is one that tends to put the mind to sleep.
on Absolutely Free, our second album. There's a twisted reference to Charles Ives at the end of Call Any Vegetable. One of the things that Ives is noted for is his use of multiple colliding themes -- the musical illusion of several marching bands marching through each other. In our low-rent version, the band splits into three parts, playing "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful" all at the same time, yielding an amateur version of an Ives collision. Unless listeners pay attention in that one spot, there are only a few bars of it, they might think it was a "mistake".
Charles Edward Ives Born: October 20, 1874. Danbury, CT. Died: May 19, 1954. New York, NY
An organ prodigy, he was first trained by his bandmaster father, who also instilled a penchant for musical experiment. At Yale University (1894-98) he learned much from the conservative Horatio Parker, but in view of his advanced musical ideas he decided not to pursue a career in music. After college he entered the insurance business in New York City and over the next three decades he would rise nearly to the top of that profession. At the same time, after leaving his last church-organist job in 1902, he began a perhaps unprecedented period of creative isolation for a major composer; for twenty years, in his spare time, he composed prolifically and with growing confidence and maturity, although during those years his music was rarely heard in public. His important works, all marked by a unique blend of prophetic experiment and familiar American material, include the "Concord Sonata", "Three Places in New England", the "Holidays Symphony", and the "Fourth Symphony". Following a serious heart attack in 1918, his health and productivity declined; his last new pieces date from the mid-1920s. He lived his last decades as an invalid in New York City and West Redding, Conn., promoting his music as best he could and revising pieces; meanwhile, various enthusiasts gradually spread his music into the world.
He is included in the list of names on the Freak Out! cover.
Example: Ragtime Dances (No. 4) (180K mp3 extract)
Public Domain Text: Essays Before a Sonata (135K pdf)