Charles Ives

American modernist composer (1874–1954)

Charles Ives (20 October 187419 May 1954) was an American classical composer, and also co-founder of the insurance firm Ives & Myrick. While he composed music for most of his life, he did so as an avocation: he made his living entirely as an executive for his insurance firm, writing a book Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax, which was highly regarded. His music drew on American hymn tunes, folk songs, and patriotic songs, in addition to music of the European tradition, and he was most famous for the dissonant simultaneities he produced by novel combination of these elements.

Charles Ives (1913)
He is Charles Ives


  • The word "beauty" is as easy to use as the word "degenerate." Both come in handy when one does or does not agree with you.
    • Essays Before a Sonata (1920), p. 77.

Quotes about Ives

  • There is a great Man living in this country — a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.
    • Fellow composer Arnold Schoenberg, who was not normally given to praising his contemporaries, in a note in his private papers written in 1944 and found after his death; as quoted at
  • [Ives] was exploring the 1960s during the heyday of Strauss and Debussy. polytonality; atonality; tone clusters; perspectivistic effects; chance; statistical composition; permutation; add-a-part, practical-joke, and improvisatory music: these were ives’ discoveries a half-century ago as he quietly set about devouring the contemporary cake before the rest of us even found a seat at the same table.
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