Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Charles Ives - Religion

I have gotten a lot of flack for the 20th-21st century music I post, Dusan Bogdanovic was slammed for being too ethnic (meaning that as a composer who grew up in the Balkans they figured he shouldn't make reference to Balkan music) or my dear old, lamented and beloved friend Arthur Berger was denounced as an"academic serialist" by someone who neither knew what the term allegedly meant and who was unfamiliar with Arthur's music - most of which was quite tonal - anyway.

But one composer, the most radical of them all, perhaps, Charles Ives was someone I could post, anything from his most sentimental parlor song to his most extremely proto-serial work without getting any flack because sometime in the 1970s or so Charles Ives was declared kewl - something he also never was.  I would bet he'd have seriously objected to the idea.

Anyway, looking up one of his most perfect pieces in any form, "The Housatonic At Stockbridge," I noticed that the next song in Ives' self-published book 114 Songs has a text which could not have possibly been more apropos to several of my recent posts on atheism,

The song is "Religion" (page 37 of the Pdf below).   The text of the song, from James T. Bixby's essay "Modern Dogmatism"  reads

“There is no unbelief;

And day by day, and night by night, unconsciously

The heart lives by that faith the lips deny,—

God knows the why.”

is just a far earlier statement of my observation that none of the atheist-materialists who never, not for a second live their lives as if they really believed their claims that people are objects, "lumbering robots" "computers made of meat" whose consciousness is a delusion based in the mere working out of random chemical-physical combinations and fluctuations in our skulls, free-will, free-choice (all compositional choices included, not to mention their own their academic blather) and the rights and privileges enjoyed by human beings, etc.  None of them really live that way.  Apparently Mr. Bixby said the same thing in a different way in 1891 and the great Charles Ives chose to set those words 29 years later because he thought they were right.

Here is the song sung.


David Pittsinger, voice
Douglas Dickson, piano

Here's a wider context for the text set by Ives

And further, let me say, I would dislike very much to have you contented with doubt. Doubt makes a very good spade to turn up the ground, but a very poor kind of spiritual food for a daily diet. It is a useful, often an indispensable half-way shelter in the journey of life; but a very cold home in which to settle down as the end of that journey.

In all our deepest hours, when our heart is truly touched, or our mind satisfied, we believe. It is each soul’s positive faith, however unconventional or perhaps unconscious that faith may be, that sustains its hope, that incites its effort, that supports it through the trials of life. Any doubt, even, that is earnest and to be respected, is really an act of faith, faith in a higher law than that of human creeds; in a more direct revelation, within ourselves, in our own sense of justice and consistency, than in any manuscript or print.

The very atheist, who in the name of truth repudiates the word God, is really manifesting (in his own different way) the belief which he cannot escape, in the divine righteousness and its lawful claim on every human soul.

She is right who sings:—

“There is no unbelief;

And day by day, and night by night, unconsciously

The heart lives by that faith the lips deny,—

God knows the why.”

I wish everything could get looked up that fast.  It would have taken me at least an hour to look this stuff up, assuming the university library where I would have to go look for it had it.  I wish it were possible to look up everything online.

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