Lecture 29

Music in America  

Why do I like these things? Are my ears on wrong?—Charles Ives


music in early America

we'll begin this lecture with a discussion of music in America prior to the turn of the 20th century, touching on the music of William Billings and Louis Moreau Gottschalk. this is to provide some prospective for the arrival on the scene of Charles Ives (1874-1954) and later American composers. 

we'll look at Ives's unique and quirky style, going into greater depth with 2 works: movement 2 of his Three Places in New England, entitled Putnam's Camp, Redding, Connecticut; and The Unanswered Question, a work for strings, trumpet and woodwinds. 

in the final segment of this lecture, we begin to look at Aaron Copland (1900-1990) and the emergence of a uniquely American sound.

Topics covered:

  • Music in early America
  • William Billings
  • Louis Moreau Gottschalk
  • Charles Ives
  • Putnam's Camp: Redding, Connecticut
  • The Unanswered Question
  • Varèse
  • Ionisation
  • Henry Cowell
  • The Banshee


  • understand the context from which Charles Ives emerged as a lone experimentalist among European traditionalists
  • hear polytonality and polyrhythms in Ives's works
  • hear how Ives sometimes changes key in mid-melody
  • hear Ives's use of borrowing well-known themes to evoke specific actions, events and characters.
  • hear the music of the Ultra-Modernists


  • watch lecture 29 (in multiple parts for quicker download)
  • review previous chapters, as necessary
  • read textbook: Chapter 27 
  • ALSO READ supplementary chapter via downloadable .pdf file, entitled, “Music in Nineteenth Century America.”
  • As you are reading your textbook, go through the Listening Exercises in textbook sequence, listening to the examples provided.
  • regarding developing listening skills: you should be in the habit of developing your listening skills early in the game - the assignments will get more complex through the semester and you may find yourself unable to keep up. As simple as these early assignments may seem to some of you, they will help to keep you on the right track, and help you develop the skills required for a greater appreciation in listening to music, including the music that you listen to for your own enjoyment. Of course, those objectives are in total sync with the success you hope to have in this class. Remember that your ability to recognize the music on your CDs will be tested and will, of course, impact your grade. 

Additional Reading 

Music in Nineteenth Century America

A short chapter from a previous edition of your textbook. 

  • To view, click on link below 
  • or 
  • To download as PDF, right-click (older Macs, control-click) and choose download linked file. 

Music in 19th Century America

Audio / Video lecture

  • click lecture segments below in sequence
  • presented in several segments to reduce download time
  • total lecture time: approx. one hour 15 minutes (all segments included)
  • can be downloaded for portable media players by right clicking each segment link and choosing save option. (note: older Macs and Mac notebooks with single-button mice: control-click) 

Lecture 29.1

The American Scene

Lecture 29.2 
Charles Ives
Lecture 29.3 
Putnam's Camp, Redding Connecticut
Lecture 29.4 
The Unanswered Question
Lecture 29.5 
The Ultra-Modernists