top of page

Charles Ives: "Country Band March"

Charles Ives is a composer that has not been discussed on this blog as of yet. Although Ives is not a composer that we generally consider a "band" composer, many of his works for winds are quite excellent. His "Country Band March" contains many compositional techniques that are considered quintessentially "Ives", especially his wit and irony. Program notes from the printed score are below.

Country Band March was composed around 1903, four years after Ives' graduation from Yale and five years prior to his lucrative insurance partnership with Julian Myrick. Ives had just resigned as organist at Central Presbyterian Church, New York, thus ending thirteen and one-half years as organist of various churches. He was, according to Henry Cowell, " the routine harmony for hymns". During this period Ives finished his Second Symphony (1902), composed three organ pieces that were later incorporated into his Third Symphony (1904), composed the Overture and March: "1776" and various songs and chamber pieces. Apparently, the Country Band March received no performances, and only a pencil score-sketch is in evidence today. Later, Ives seemed very interested in this music, since he incorporated nearly all of it, in one form or another, into the "Hawthorne" movement of Sonata No. 2 (Concord), The Celestial Railroad, the Fourth Symphony (second movement) and especially "Putnam's Camp" from Three Places in New England.

From the "out of tune" introduction to the pandemonium which reigns at the close, the Country Band March is a marvelous parody of the realities of performance by a country band. While the main march theme is probably Ives' own, the march features an impressive list of quotations that includes "Arkansas Traveler", "Battle Cry of Freedom", "British Grenadiers", "The Girl I Left Behind Me", "London Bridge", "Marching Through Georgia", "Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Violets", "Yankee Doodle", "May Day Waltz" and "Semper Fidelis". There is rarely anything straight-forward about the use of this material; the tunes are subjected to Ives' famous techniques of "poly-everything". Of particular interest is Ives' use of "ragtime" elements to enliven this already spirited march.

Charles E. Ives, Country Band March

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Col. Timothy W. Foley, conductor

featured posts:
search by tags:
No tags yet.
recent posts:
bottom of page