American composer Charles Ives (1874 - 1954) has gone from being a virtual unknown to become one of the most respected and lauded composers in American music. In this sweeping survey of intellectual and musical history, David C. Paul tells the new story of how Ives's music was shaped by shifting conceptions of American identity within and outside of musical culture, charting the changes in the reception of Ives across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Paul focuses on the critics, composers, performers, and scholars whose contributions were most influential in shaping the critical discourse on Ives, many of them marquee names of American musical culture themselves, including Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, and Leonard Bernstein. Paul explores both how Ives strategically positioned his music amid changing philosophical and aesthetic currents and how others interpreted his contributions to the idea, character, and functions of American music. Although Ives's initial efforts at making his music known to the public in the early twenties were unsuccessful, the resurgence of interest in the American literary past during the thirties helped secure an important place in American concert culture for his Concord Sonata, a work dedicated to nineteenth-century transcendentalist writers. Paul also charts the deployment of Ives as an icon of self-made independence and American freedom during the early Cold War period and the more recent instigation of Ives at the head of a line of so-called American maverick composers. By embedding Ives' reception within the changing developments of a wide range of fields including intellectual history, American studies, literature, musicology, and American politics and society in general, Charles Ives in the Mirror: American Histories of an Iconic Composer greatly advances our understanding of Ives and his influence on nearly a century of American culture.
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