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Charles Ives's Concord

Essays after a Sonata

A revolutionary exploration of Ives' transcendent masterpiece

In 1921, insurance executive Charles Ives sent out copies of a piano sonata to two hundred strangers. Laden with dissonant chords, complex rhythm, and a seemingly chaotic structure, the so-called Concord Sonata confounded the recipients, as did the accompanying book, Essays before a Sonata.

Kyle Gann merges exhaustive research with his own experience as a composer to reveal the Concord Sonata and the essays in full. Diffracting the twinned works into their essential aspects, Gann lays out the historical context that produced Ives's masterpiece and illuminates the arguments Ives himself explored in the Essays. Gann also provides a movement-by-movement analysis of the work's harmonic structure and compositional technique; connects the sonata to Ives works that share parts of its material; and compares the 1921 version of the Concord with its 1947 revision to reveal important aspects of Ives's creative process.

A tour de force of critical, theoretical, and historical thought, Charles Ives's Concord provides nothing less than the first comprehensive consideration of a work at the heart of twentieth century American music.


"Not only an important addition to the thinking about Ives, but a moving companion to the artist and the Concord."--Wire

"A major work gets a major analysis: a masterpiece gets a masterpiece."--Do the M@th

"In Charles Ives's Concord: Essays After a Sonata Gann's analysis takes the form of a kind of biblical exegesis, where canonical texts are pored over by ever-new generations. He achieves a balance between writing for Ives specialists and delivering a text that is compulsively readable. . . . This is a book to savor with headphones."--Times Literary Supplement

"This is an interesting and important book. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"This is a book which no Ives scholar or enthusiast can be without. It is quite indispensable, a glowing and lasting monument to the forty years which Gann has spent loving and working on his subject."--Journal of Experimental Music Studies

"A treatise on past and future performance practice for the 'Concord' Sonata. This is an absolutely essential reading for performers interested in this work." --Notes

"Gann's passionate survey of the Concord Sonata and its various offshoots and progeny is and should remain an indispensable contribution to Ives studies and twentieth-century keyboard literature." --American Music

"Goes far beyond any existing literature in this domain. It's possibly the best analytical writing about a major Ives composition that I've seen."--William Brooks, University of York

"It is refreshing to read such a passionate description of a major work of art which is so profoundly meaningful to the author. Practically every page is informative, or contains new insight into the work. By far the best work ever done on the subject."--Neely Bruce, Wesleyan University


Kyle Gann is a composer and the Taylor Hawver and Frances Bortle Hawver Professor of Music at Bard College. He is the author of The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician; No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33"; and Robert Ashley.

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