Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Garrett, Charles Hiroshi. “Charles Ives’s Four Ragtime Dances and ‘True American Music.’” In Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century, 17-47. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Ragtime took the United States by storm in the early twentieth century, and Charles Ives incorporated ragtime elements into numerous works. Nevertheless, a closer examination of musical and biographical evidence reveals the composer’s ambivalent and even contradictory attitude towards the genre. On the one hand, Ives demonstrates an enthusiasm for ragtime through his bold embrace of a genre associated with African Americans in a racially divided era. On the other hand, this positive engagement is at odds with the tone of his writings, which often dismissed ragtime as inferior to art music and Protestant hymns. The disparity can be explained by considering the popularity of ragtime during Ives’s youth, how he reworked his early ragtime-based pieces later in life, and the significant time lapse that often occurred between composing a piece and writing about it. Four Ragtime Dances also reflects this ambivalence, and the work can be interpreted either as a statement of progressive inclusivity or of racial inequality. This diversity of hearings is possible because Four Ragtime Dances engages with many types of musical friction—sacred and secular, classical and popular, and racial—and in this regard the work reflects the inherent “messy quality” of Ives’s music in general.

Works: Ives: Four Ragtime Dances (24-46), Central Park in the Dark (46-47).

Sources: George Minor: Bringing in the Sheaves (26, 31); Edward Rimbault: Happy Day (26); Lewis Hartsough: I Hear Thy Welcome Voice (26, 31); Joseph E. Howard and Ida Emerson: Hello! Ma Baby (46-47).

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew G. Leone, Daniel Rogers, David G. Rugger

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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