Next week, at the Ultima Festival in Oslo, we’ll be performing Charles Ives Orchestral Set No 1, “Three Places in New England” with the Oslo Philharmonic. Some of the sketches to this piece go back to 1903 – incredible for such a free and unconventional work.
The first movement is a kind of sound installation of a ghostly army walking into battle. There are march and folk tune fragments floating around and a constantly shifting, very slow march-step. These is the opening passage in the strings.
In Ives’s handwritten sketches you see the (sordino) marking, which is strangely optional in the printed score.
Ives was really uncompromising when it came down to notating his intentions. On his very first sketches of “The Housatonic at Stockbridge” he wrote: “River mists, leaves in slight breeze, river bed-all notes & phrases in upper accompaniment should intervene in an uneven way-riverside colors, leaves & sounds-NOT come down on main beat… ” — and so he really tried and wrote music with NO BEAT.
Here is the opening, where the 1,2,3 rd violins play a pattern of 3/8, the 4th violins 4/4 and the violas one of 7 triplets. Unfortunately, in the orchestral parts, the 1st violins are written out in 4/4, but here is the original:
The concert is Oslo is next Friday, at 19.30 at Kulturhuset.