Music Favorites VI - Charles Ives' A Son of a Gambolier (from 114 Songs)
Charles Ives stands at the forefront of American music. Ives was not a full-time composer and his works were largely ignored during his lifetime; publishment of his pieces was done out of his own pocket. A millionaire from his insurance business, Ives' tireless promotion of his own work was the only thing that ended up saving them from languishing in obscurity. Of his oeuvre, only perhaps a dozen are to my liking, but those dozen are special pieces in their own right.
A devoted experimenter who utilized free dissonance, polytonality, and quarter tones, Ives' music is chaotic and dissonant with only occasional forays into traditional harmony. "A Son of a Gambolier" is not one of those pieces; its traditional structure is indeed at odds to most of what he wrote. It calls for one of the larger ensembles utilized in his eclectic collection "114 Songs" - in addition to the voice and piano, the score calls for a kazoo chorus, two trombones, and assorted violins and fifes. It's an incredibly clever piece which - surprisingly - lacks a whole lot of singing.