Charles Ives went postal.
I want to write about an American composer for the Fourth of July, but I’m tired of the same ol’ group of characters — Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin, Barber. Let’s go with Charles Ives and the third movement of his Symphony No. 1. The first of Ives's symphonies is about American holidays and the third movement just happens to be about the Fourth of July — kind of.
The Fourth of July
Charles Ives, composer
Ives was famous for his orchestral experiments. This Fourth of July music is nowhere close to what we might expect. There is no flag waving and no apple pie, but there are some explosions.
The holiday starts off with what sounds like the oppressive heat of a July morning. Hints of celebration work their way into the early afternoon. By the end we reach a cacophonous celebration that captures some of the frantic spirit of the holiday.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic tries to make an appearance before the local drum-and-fife corps interrupts. The drum and fife have obviously been drinking all day.
The composition is brilliant. I’m not always a fan of Ives, but this works and makes me proud to be an American. It has a sense of humor and affirms that American independence isn't always a harmonious occasion — day drinkers.