In Pursuit of "The Walden State-of-Mind": Henry David Thoreau in Charles Ives's Music

by Rachael. Anora Fuller

Institution: Kent State University
Department: College of the Arts / School of Music
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: Music; charles ives, ives, henry david thoreau, thoreau, american music, new england transcendentalism, music theory, music history
Record ID: 2062659
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=kent1428944240


Charles Ives considered each one of the New England Transcendentalists heroes, having grown up reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and many other staples of the New England classics. Of all of the Transcendentalists, Thoreau was the writer whom Ives related to the most. His time in solitude in a cabin near Walden Pond fascinated the young Charlie, who read Walden with his father as a boy in Danbury, Connecticut. This thesis explores Ives’s use of Thoreau in his compositions. The thesis itself is divided into two different parts: the first two chapters explore Ives’s connections with New England Transcendentalism, his view of a pastoral ideal, and Thoreau’s Walden, while Chapters 3, 4, and 5 include my own analyses of each piece that I chose to represent Thoreau. I started this process by analyzing Ives’s Concord Sonata, piecing important motives together. Then, I explored different sources, such as Ives’s Memos and Essays Before a Sonata, J. Peter Burkholder’s All Made of Tunes, and Stuart Feder’s “’Thoreau Was Definitely There’: The Ives-Thoreau Connection” from Thoreau’s World and Ours. Feder’s article, which includes speculation of “Thoreau” pieces in a psychoanalytical and musicological light, provided me with a guide of which pieces to include. I analyzed each of these pieces in many different ways and concluded that through text, musical borrowing, motivic patterns, use of color, and Transcendental undertones, there are connections between these pieces. Through this, I analyzed other pieces to search for more connections to Thoreau, concluding that Thoreau is connected to many of Ives’s works.