Dissertation Index

Author: Hamm, Chelsey L

Title: Charles Ives and Democracy: Association, Borrowing, and Treatment of Dissonance in His Music

Institution: Indiana University

Begun: August 2010

Completed: December 2016


I interpret meanings in Charles Ives’s uses of musical borrowings through the perspective of his treatment of dissonance. Drawing on archival research and primary documents, I study two aspects: first, how one might reconstruct his thoughts on connections between democracy and dissonance (“Association”), and second, how one might understand his musical dissonances constructively in terms of analysis and experience for the present-day listener (“Treatment”). Ives’s writings that discussed features of dissonance—especially extramusical or expressive associations—are ubiquitous, and his writings support the main theoretical ideas of this study. I theorize that, for Charles Ives, dissonance was evocative expressively and extramusically, and that the compositional makeup of his works reflects this aesthetic orientation.

Many of Ives’s references to dissonant musical structures fall into a web of associations that I describe as “Democratic.” In writings that discussed “Democratic” dissonances, Ives associated aspects of dissonance with strength, freedom, and/or democratic principles. By contrast, he regarded music whose dissonant potential was underutilized as lacking the capacity to evoke strength and freedom. Ives also associated aspects of consonance and/or late nineteenth-century musical theories regarding tonal music with autocracy, slavery, and/or “German rules” during and after the Great War. In addition to reconstructing Ives’s associations of dissonance, I explore the ways in which Ives treated “Democratic” dissonances musically, and describe how modern listeners might constructively utilize these dissonance treatments for analysis and experience. “Democratic” dissonances manifest in Ives’s music that was written or revised during and after World War I, in the guise of tonal passages that Ives may have marked or camouflaged by the “addition” of dissonant musical structures for their political and ethical affect. In my work, I specifically examine passages that feature tonal musical borrowings, which can be compared to consonant, tonal harmonic progressions and melodic lines, as shown through sketch study and my own recompositions. Dissonant notes interact with and alter these underlying consonant, tonal harmonic progressions and melodies, and different kinds of alterations musically shape the affective qualities and compositional design of Ives’s music.

Keywords: Charles Ives, Music and Meaning, Musical Borrowing, Musicology, Listener Experiences, Dissonance Usage, Sketch Study


Chapter 1: Unanswered Questions

Chapter 2: Musical Borrowings in Ives’s Reception History and Relevant Literature

Chapter 3: A Theory of Treatment of Dissonance in the Music of Ives

Chapter 4: The Interpretive Context of World War I and “Democratic” Dissonance

Chapter 5: “Democratic” Dissonances: “Sneak Thief”

Chapter 6: “Democratic” Dissonances: From Hanover Square North

Chapter 7: “Democratic” Dissonances: Revisions

Epilogue: Conclusions


Chelsey Hamm, chelseyhamm@gmail.com

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