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Here is a selected bibliography of books and other resources related to Ives, with some brief commentary interspersed. I have divided the information into four categories:

Of course this list is only a drop in the bucket of available information about Ives. See Sinclair's A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives for a more complete bibliography.

Writings by Charles Ives

Essays Before a Sonata, The Majority, and Other Writings. Edited by Howard Boatwright (Norton, 1999).

This one is absolutely required reading for the Ives fan--especially the Essays Before a Sonata. Read it a few times. Bear down especially on the "Emerson" section. It's very clear that Ives strongly identifies himself with Emerson. Sure, Ives literary talent doesn't match his musical genius. But who cares? This is as close as Ives ever came to creating a manifesto that illuminates his artistic intentions.

Incidentally, the complete "Essays Before a Sonata" is available online, provided by Project Gutenburg.

Charles E.Ives: Memos. Edited by John Kirkpatrick (Norton, 1991).

This is another trove of information for the Ives scholar and fan. Ives began writing (and dictating) these memos in the 1930's. He never intended for them to be published; rather, he intended them to serve as source material for scholars, critics, and reviewers who were looking for information about his life and compositions. The reader should be aware that Ives--like many other artists--isn't always his own best advocate. For example, in many cases Ives does a fine job of painting himself as a first-class crank. Also, Ives collected this information long after he had stopped composing, so some of his judgements should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, this is an invaluable document. If you're a fan, you really should dip into it.

Biographies & Oral History

Charles Ives: A Life with Music. By Jan Swafford (Norton, 1996).

This is not only a superb biography of Ives, but it's one of the best biographies that I've ever read. Even folks who aren't Ives freaks love it. So, if you're an Ives beginner, and you want to understand the life and ideas behind Ives' music, begin here.

Charles Ives and His World. By Henry and Sidney Cowell (Oxford University Press, 1955; reprinted by Oxford UP, 1969).

Charles Ives, "My Father's Song." By Stuart Feder (Yale University Press, 1992).

Charles Ives Remembered. Edited by Vivian Perlis (Da Capo Press, 1994).

This book is a compilation of fascinating recollections by Ives' friends and family. Some of the actual recording that Perlis made while conducting the interviews appear on the Ives centenary box (Columbia Masterworks M4 32504, out-of-print LPs) released in 1974.

What Charlie Heard. By Mordecai Gerstein (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002).

This is a children's book about Charles Ives for kids from 4 to 8 years old. It's a great introduction to Ives and his music. The illustrations are particularly evocative. My kids enjoyed it!

Scholarship & Criticism

Charles Ives: A Bio-Bibliography. By Geoffrey Block (Greenwood Press, 1988).

Ives: Concord Sonata. Cambridge Music Handbook. By Geoffrey Block (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Charles Ives and His World. Edited by Peter Burkholder (Princeton University Press, 1996).

This volume consists of three parts. Part I includes interesting essays by a variety of Ives scholars. But--for my money--the best sections are Parts II and III. Part II consists of selected letters from Ives, dating from 1881 to 1954. Part III collects important reviews of Ives performances from 1888 to 1951. It's fascinating to see how early critics and reviewer perceived Ives and his music.

Charles Ives: The Ideas Behind the Music. By Peter Burkholder (Yale University Press, 1985).

Charles Ives: A Guide to Research (Routledge Music Bibliographies Series). By Gayle Sherwood (Taylor & Francis, Inc., 2002).

A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives. By James Sinclair (Yale University Press, 1999).

Ninety-five percent of the factual information in this site is dervied from this book in one way or another. For the Ives scholar, this book is the mother-lode. Each one of Ives compositions is described in exquisite detail, including: other titles, instrumentation, duration, movements, sources, date of composition, publication information, premiere, first recording, derivation, borrowing, literature, and comment. The prefatory information and appendices contain even more information. Yes, it may be a bit much for the casual fan. But there's just so much stuffed between the two covers that I'm in awe of the astounding feat of scholarship that James Sinclair has accomplished. This book is a great service to Ives and his music.


A Good Dissonance Like a Man. Produced and directed by Theodor W. Timreck (The New York Foundation of the Arts, 1976).

Ernie Sparks, a reader of this site, was kind enough to give me his copy of this documentary on videocasette. "Good Dissonance Like a Man" is an interesting film that portrays of key events in Ives' life. Most of the dialogue in the film is taken directly from Ives' writings. The action tends to focus on Ives' artistic isolation, and the film is quite brief, so the picture of the Ives is nowhere near complete. Another shortcoming of the film is that it never captures the sense of transcendence that is so essential to Ives' music. Nonetheless, if you're a fan, you'll enjoy watching this.


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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002-2006


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