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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 83 | volume XV | March-April, 2012



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 83March-April, 2012
Sound Reviews

Taking a Closer Look

– A Peek at Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question

p. 1
Darija Andovska

“What is the meaning of life?” – perhaps the most iconic of all questions, resonating constantly throughout the history of mankind, its answer/s sought throughout the spheres of religion, philosophy, sciences, art, and even the occult. Despite all efforts, the question is still upon us; on the one hand, the essence behind the answer asks for our own individual commitment and duty, whereas, on the other hand, the quest to find an answer, a viable one, has led to the creation of one of the 20th century’s most remarkable works, namely, The Unanswered Question (1906) by Charles Ives.
    Ives believed in the healing power of art, for he strove to create a concept that is not pigeonholed by trifle little nouns or adjectives, such as Christian, pagan, Jewish, or angel; rather, his was a vision, higher and wider than art itself, through which he tirelessly worked to provide an answer to the eternal life’s question. Ives also believed that god’s plan envisioned for man’s spirit to evolve, accompanying nature’s one, and reach perfection. Each one of us is a part of a hero’s individual journey through adulthood and maturation, as is the discovery that the journey is a part of larger, upward quest all of mankind must follow. Ives also saw music as the key piece of the puzzle, playing an important role on this journey, no matter its genre, provided that it is honest and authentic, since he felt that the external sound was in fact an imperfect manifestation of the eternal inward spirit.
    Initially, The Unanswered Question was composed as the first part of the cycle titled “Two Contemplations”, whose second part is also a well-known, popular work called “Central Park in the Dark”. As many of Ives’s other works, these compositions were relatively unknown, though they were first published in 1940. Today, both works are treated as separate compositions, and as such can be performed separately, or as one whole piece. The premiere of the orchestra version of the piece, which dates back to 1906, to be revisited by the author in the period between 1930 and 1935, took place on May 11th, 1946, performed by the Julliard’s School of Music’s Chamber Orchestra, consisting of graduate students, and conducted by Theodore Bloomfield.  
    For one, The Unanswered Question is the first work, in the 20th century that uses space as a key element of the composition. Ives had specified which three

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