The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: An American composer celebrates an American holiday – hear Charles Ives’ “Fourth of July” movement from his “New England Holidays” Symphony

July 4, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

A lot of music gets played for the Fourth of July.

I understand all the Sousa marches and Aaron Copland pieces you hear, especially the “Fanfare for the Common Man.” They’re great tuneful music you can hum to and whistle along with.

But I will confess: I have always been perplexed why Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” gets such prominent play. After all it is a Russian composer celebrating a victory over the French led by Napoleon. Maybe it has to do with all noise of the cannon fire and the bombastic victory theme church bells and the self-righteous Second Amendment nuts.

Well, for a break, I thought I would let you hear some music that is unusual and more difficult to like, but that is also thoroughly Yankee music.

It’s the Fourth of July movement from the “New England Holidays” Symphony of Charles Ives, who combines different tunes in different keys with different rhythms in his own inimitable way.

I don’t know if you will like it.

But it seems to me we should all hear it at least once.

So here it is:

Happy Fourth of July!

Let me know what you think of the Ives.

And what classical music you think best celebrates the Fourth of July?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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