The Unanswered Question
(1.)The Unanswered Question by (2.)Charles Ives was first composed in 1908. Ives was an American modernist composer. Today we know Ives an inspirational and talented composer. However, during his lifetime he and his works were relatively unknown in music and the arts. The Unanswered Question wasn’t known to general public until decades after it was first written.1
(3.)During his lifetime he failed to make a stable income from his music. His primary career consisted of selling insurance. Over time, his music became popular and world renowned. Ives credits his musical style to his childhood when he saw two different marching bands headed toward one another. They were playing two different styles of music. As they got closer their music began to clash. It left Ives with a love for a chaotic melodies and lack of harmony between the instruments. 2
(4.)The Unanswered Questions is modernist in nature. It was also referred to as ‘Program music.’ The score starts with a strings section. (6.)It creates a very soothing and mellow opening with a descending melody. A trumpet layer is added. It adds an uplifting vibe to the song, The woodwind instruments follow the Trumpet. They gradually get louder and build and become very chromatic as the melody ascends and descends. When the textures change, the rhythmic values shorten. Like the Trumpet parts, the woodwind section progresses and eventually picks up complexity. The woodwind and strings sound agitated as they are playing at a different tempo. (5.) Throughout the song the pitches change and the rising tempo distinguish the different layers. Although the music sounds agitated and chaotic at times, the different musical sections still flow nicely throughout the entire piece.
(7.)My interpretation is this song was very well done. I love the slow opening that builds with a trumpet. When I first heard the trumpet, I instantly thought of the Jurassic Park theme. The trumpet adds a very uplifting sound quality that made me sit-up straight when you first hear it. After reading about the background of the song from the composer it reminds me of how small we really are in the universe. I enjoyed the slow build in the song and how chaotic it all sounds when the music builds.
(8.)Any art form is worth doing if it leaves the audience with a sense of emotion, questions, or thought. The Unanswered Question left me with wonder and the thinking of how massive our universe is and it asks the question of how and why we exist. This music has resonated with people for decades now. Musicians have replicated it and based their own music off its tempo and complexity. Any art form that inspires will always be worth viewing.
The Unanswered Question