by Charles Edward Ives, 1874-1954
As befits the smaller, more intimate scale of chamber music, Ives brings to his approximately 175 songs a distillation of the same style and compositional methods evident in his large scale works. Written while still a student at Yale, the song Memories (1897) reflects the breadth of Ives's personal approach to music even at an early age. The song is comprised of two highly contrasting sections, so distinct from each other, in fact, as to constitute nearly independent songs. (The date "1897" appears at the beginning of each section, supporting the idea of the separate origins of each song within the same year.)
The first section ("Very Pleasant") is a faithful evocation of the breathless anticipation of waiting for a stage performance to begin. The section is full of whimsical touches such as whistling and even rapidly declaimed tongue-twisters ("expectancy and ecstasy"). This excitement reaches a sudden halt ("Curtain!"), and we immediately move into the featured act: the performance of a slow, nostalgic melody (marked "Rather Sad") in the style of a Victorian parlor song, the lyrics of which (in typical Ives fashion), are curious in that they do not quite make sense, but are nonetheless highly evocative of the touching and somewhat nostalgic sentiments associated with songs of this genre.
Memories clearly demonstrates the scope of Ives's creative genius even when composing in the most conventional of styles.