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    Ways of Listening: Aesthetics, Metaphors, and Quotations in Music – Part IV



    Part IV:

    Not only does the first quotation in the song The Things Our Father Loved work like a sonic photo that invites us to share the experience with Ives, all the rest of the quoted tunes function similarly.  After the “Kentukcy” tune of “long ago” brings us to Ives’ imagined “home,” the borrowed old folk song of On the Banks of the Wabash comes next.  The piano sonority becomes more and more dissonant.  Perhaps, it is a kind of appassionate dissonance.  The music of “aunt Sarah’s humming from the organ on the main street”[1] is another sonic photo that we can experience.  While the sense of religious faith emanated from the borrowed Gospel of Nettleton is still haunting us, the patriotic song of The Battle Cry of Freedom suddenly intrudes into our muse of devout.  The block chord accompaniment in the right hand and the swing-like skipping bass in the left hand seem to raise listener’s spirit courageously higher and higher.  The effect of the quoted songs now is no longer the halcyon remembrance or pious meditation, but is changed to a kind of patriotic bravey.  But how does this effect influence our sensation and experience?

    To listeners, the march-like music stepping restlessly forward until reaching the climax is particularly a high spirited moment.  We can hear the highest sounding of the piano chords, contrasting with the inexorable descending low bass, to reinforce the voice singing, “all red, white and blue, now!”  This is a moment that Ives attains his “liberty,” or more directly, Ives’s “liberty” in terms of ours, that is, a moment of all made of memorable tunes!  Not for a second, a sweet quoted family folk, In the Sweet Bye and Bye, furtively emerges from the biosterious climatic reverberation.  When the running semiquaver arpeggios are still keeping their rapid chromatic motion, listeners’ sensations are caught up again in this conclusive time.  What are the “things” our father loved?  It is an out-of-key, even distorted, nearly unrecognized fragmental tune from the Sweet Bye and Bye, singing, “in my soul of the things our Fathers loved.”  The unresolved G# dominant ninth chord in the piano suspends softly in the open air, seeming to call listeners to search what was there once again.  It is the final sonic photo in Ives’ private collection.

    To be Continued…..

    David Leung (theorydavid)

    2012/01/07 (published)

    [1] The text of the second phrase of this song is, “I hear the organ on the

    Main Street

    corner, Aunt Sarah humming Gospels.”

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