I chanced upon Ives’s name first in a Joseph McElroy interview — a reference to the “haunted montage” of the 4th symphony in “Mid-course Corrections” — and then I found further allusions in some of the writings/interviews of Paul Metcalf. More recently I read a review of a biography of the musician and composer in Guy Davenport’s The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays. Now I have acquired that biography, David Woolridge’s From the Steeples to Mountains (Knopf, 1974).
It is very good, written somewhat in the style of Charles Olson’s Call Me Ishmael, or even at times with the typographically-inflected quotation-and-collage techniques of Metcalf. I am basically devouring it, which is rarer and rarer for me; it usually takes me weeks to even finish a book of 200 pages. What a fascinating figure Ives was.
One anecdote is too sweet not to share. When Ives was living in NYC as a young bachelor, when he was at the piano writing new compositions and practicing, he would from time to time get a word of strong approval from a neighbor across the way, shouting distantly or unseen, a neighbor by the name of Dick Schweppe. Apparently Ives never learned Schweppe’s profession, and trusted his opinion all the more for that. In his notebooks from the time, Ives occasionally makes a note of Dick Schweppe’s approval.