Charles Edward Ives, Danbury born and raised maverick composer, cared little for the musical styles and fashions of his day. He cared even less for music critics. He was fond of saying that pretty music was for pretty ears, and he had no regrets that his music was not considered "pretty." Not until 1939, 20 years after he stopped composing, did the American public become aware of his music. Acceptance came much later.

Charles Ives' first and most influential teacher was his father, George, a Civil War band leader, who introduced him to the concepts of polytonality and multiple meters. Young Charles grew up listening to his father's bands marching up and down Danbury's Main Street and was greatly influenced by his father's frequent musical experiments.


One popular anecdote recounts the occasion when several of George's bands marched to Elmwood Park from different directions, simultaneously playing marches in different meters and keys. Another tells of George's experiments with quarter tones, which were inspired by the out-of-tune church bells of the
First Congregational Church next to his home.

George Ives ' musical innovation and the sights and sounds of the Danbury area had a powerful impact on young Charles and contributed to his unconventional approach to music writing.


Charles Ives began composing at a young age. In 1888, he played his composition "Slow March" at the funeral for Chin-Chin, his cat. Some people say Chin-Chin was a dog!

Charles was fond of using fragments of music familiar to Danburians. Patriotic music, hymns and marches figured prominently in his compositions. He combined fragments of this conventional music with the unconventional compositional techniques he learned from his father. The result was uniquely American and uniquely Charles Ives.






Nancy Sudik is the executive director of the Danbury Music Centre .