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Classical 101

A Time For Reflection; Charles Ives In Autumn

"The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry, Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky." - William Yeats, 'The Wild Swans at Coole'

The opening pianissimo string section of Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question mimics silence; it's stillness is both soft and resolute at once. When people ask about music fit for the first day of Autumn, it is this piece to which I point. It's reflective but not stagnant. 

On this, the first day of Autumn, I want to invite you to take just seven minutes to listen and reflect. 


It's easy to hear the influence of the beauty of New England in Charles Ives' works; he wrote specifically for his country and his locale. But what might sometimes be overlooked or forgotten— without reflection— is the extent to which Ives' time influenced his music. 

We live in a time of struggle and change, but lest we forget, so did Charles Ives. This piece was written in 1908. Just in the year in which this work was published: 

  • Japanese immigration to the US was restricted under the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907;
  • The 46th star was added to the United States flag to represent the state of Oklahoma;
  • The Collinwood School Fire, near Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A., killed 174 people;
  • The Springfield Race Riot of 1908 in erupted in Springfield, Illinois;
  • Frederick Cook and his Inuit guides Aapilak and Ittukusuk made the first trip to the geographic North Pole, and the first long-distance radio message was sent from the Eiffel Tower.

As the late, great Donald Harris once said to me: "I don't know about Progress, but Progression exists." In that light, take a moment to reflect on this first day of Autumn, 2016.