The paradox of Charles Ives

0a275282-38d6-11e4_1093733hCarol J. Oja at the Times Literary Supplement:

In “Monster (for Charles Ives)”, the American abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell painted the head and upper body of a scraggly animal, pierced by a white hole that receded into grey nothingness. “I dedicated the painting to Ives,” Motherwell stated, “for the title refers to the monstrous ambiguity of the modernist artist’s situation, which Ives no less (and no more) epitomizes than other deeply serious composers, poets, playwrights, painters and sculptors in the U.S.A. in the twentieth century.” Motherwell said his inspiration came from listening to the music of Ives on a classical radio station in New York City, a shared sonic space for devotees of high art. He created this painting in 1959, five years after Ives’s death and somewhere amid the composer’s tumultuous journey from spurned rebel to canonical visionary.

Myth-making and myth-bashing have defined the “monstrous ambiguity” of Ives’s cultural status, and in Charles Ives in the Mirror: American histories of an iconic composer, David C. Paul unpacks shifting perceptions of the composer and his music. Paul has crafted an ambitious intellectual history, putting Ives at the centre of diverse forces, including the history of twentieth-century composition, the legacy of transcendentalism, the cultural marketing of the Cold War and the rise of American Studies and American musicology.

more here.