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Ives assembled (or at least planned to assemble) ten numbered "sets for small orchestra."

The works are listed below, along with some details about the composition dates. Also, a brief commentary about these works appears at the bottom of the page.

Set No. 1 (also known as "The Cornet Set")

  • i. Scherzo: The Seer
  • ii. A Lecture
  • iii. The Ruined River
  • iv. Like a Sick Eagle
  • v. Calcium Light Night
  • vi. Allegretto sombreoso

Assembled circa 1913 from movments composed 1907-11.

Set No. 2

  • i. Largo: The Indians
  • ii. "Gyp the Blood" or Hearst!? Which is Worst?!
  • iii. Andante: The Last Reader

Assembled circa 1913-14 from music composed in 1911-12.

Set No. 3 (also known as "Three Poems of Robert Underwood Johnson")

  • i. Adagio sostenuto: At Sea
  • ii. Luck and Work
  • iii. Premonitions

Assembled 1918-19 (?) from music composed from 1912-18.

Set No. 4: Three Poets and Human Nature (planned only; never realized by Ives)

  • i. Robert Browning
  • ii. Walt Whitman
  • iii. Matthew Arnold

Planned after the 1922 printing of 114 Songs, probably between 1925-1930 (?).

Set No. 5: The Other Side of Pioneering, or Side Light on American Enterprise
(planned only; never realized by Ives)

  • i. The New River
  • ii. The Indians
  • iii. Charlie Rutlage
  • iv. Ann Street

Planned after the 1922 printing of 114 Songs, probably after 1925 (?).

Set No. 6: From the Side Hill (planned only; never realized by Ives)

  • i. Mists
  • ii. The Rainbow
  • iii. Afterglow
  • iv. Evening

Planned after the 1922 printing of 114 Songs, probably between 1925-1930 (?).

Set No. 7: Water Colors (planned only; never realized by Ives)

  • i. At Sea
  • ii. Swimmers
  • iii. The Pond
  • iv. Full Fathom Five (now lost)

Planned between 1925 and 1930.

Set No. 8: Songs Without Voices

  • i. The New River
  • ii. The Indians
  • iii. Ann Street

Assembled in early 1930 (?). (Perhaps for a concert in NYC on April 21, 1930.)

Set No. 9 of Three Pieces

  • i. Andante con moto: The Last Reader
  • ii. Scherzo: The Seer
  • iii. Largo to Presto: The Unanswered Question

Assembled in 1934 (?).

Set No. 10 of Three Pieces

  • i. Largo molto: Like a Sick Eagle
  • ii. Allegro-Andante: Luck and Work
  • iii. Adagio: The Indians

Assembled probably in 1934.


Ives constantly re-orchestrated works that he had written earlier, and his "Sets for Small Orchestra" are textbook examples of this habit. Many of the "movements" from the works above are orchestrations of songs that Ives had written earlier. However, in other cases, Ives originally conceived a work in an orchestral form, and then created a song from the orchestral work. In still other cases, Ives re-orchestrated (or planned to re-orchestrate) purely instrmental works using different combinations of instruments. Many of the orchestrations that Ives never got around to completing have been realized by members of the Charles Ives Society, using notes that Ives left in his manuscripts. [For complete details of these goings-on, consult James Sinclair's Descriptive Catalog of the Music of Charles Ives.]


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Original text copyright Scott Mortensen 2002