GK: A great American composer Charles Ives was born in Danbury about 25 miles from here. His father, whom he loved, was a bandleader in the Civil War. Charles was born in 1874 and took up the flute and violin and especially loved the cornet and the drums. He liked to sit at the piano and bang out drum solos with his fists, playing tone clusters.
He had a dog named Jimmie and a cat that ate asparagus and lived to be 23 years old. And a horse named Rocket.
He was a boy who loved sounds. He listened to his father play the fiddle in their barn with all the horses and the chickens and roosters. Quacking ducks. Birds twittering. Dogs barking. Clocks ticking, church bells chiming. People walking down the street on a hot summer's night. Crickets chirping. Horses trotting down the streets. The steam engine train. Clanging of a fire truck. The new airplanes flying overhead. People in church singing out of tune. The sounds of the river. Thunderstorms at night. A pitcher striking out a batter and the crack of a home run.
He loved baseball. He was the star pitcher on his high school baseball team. and some people thought he should turn pro.
He became a church organist when he was 13 at the First Congregational Church and played some of his own improvisations and people sent up notes after the service that said --Terrible,-- --Bad Mistake.--
He went to Yale, got bad grades in everything except music, was popular on campus, married a woman named Harmony and moved to New York and got a job as an actuarial clerk in an insurance company He rose quickly and became a multi-millionaire and had a heart attack at the age of 32.
He was a man of simple tastes. He liked the Model T Ford He liked clog-dancing. He planted his own potatoes. When he felt bad, he'd sit down and play --Onward Christian Soldiers-- and make himself feel better. He liked bare white walls and the New England writers, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau.
A friend of Charles Ives said he had a --quiet dignity, a kind of self-assurance. He knew what he had done. He knew what he was, and that was that.--
He was choir director for the Central Presbyterian Church in Manhattan on Broadway and 57th street, and put on a concert of his own work, and people didn't like it, so he quit the job and didn't perform his music publicly for another 20 years. Most of Charles Ives's friends didn't know he was a composer.
He did good work in the insurance business, selling insurance to groups of people, soldiers, schoolteachers, factory workers, and didn't try to oversell -- he helped people calculate the exact amount they would need to provide for their families. He was a leader in estate planning.
But he loved music and sound. And when he composed, he thought of the Fourth of July in Danbury and how exciting it was -- church bells (SFX), firecrackers (SFX) cannon on the Green (SFX), fife-and-drum-corps (DRUMS), and the sky-rocket over the Church-steeple (ROCKETS).