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The Unanswered Question

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This work was originally composed in 1906. The original composition was meant for a solo trumpet, a woodwind quartet, and an offstage string quartet. Ives revised it, later on, to give birth to a chamber orchestra version. The revised version is scored for four flutes, trumpet, and strings. Ives is often credited with discovering a couple of elements associated with music as we know it now. In the Unanswered question, most of these aspects are present. They include spatial music, quartertone harmony, polyrhythm, free dissonance, atonality, polytonality, and quartertone harmony. The Unanswered Question is an example of a concept that Ives envisioned- Universal Religion. Different layers of sound are heard throughout the piece. The meaning of…show more content…
Beautiful harmonies accompany the tune underneath ever so gently. At 0:26 there is a little bit of tension but which is short- lived. The left- hand of the piano, or rather the bass line, begins to play repeated chords. Ives introduces a tune he refers to as the “human faith melody” at this juncture. This tune is trademark throughout the second sonata since it is also featured in the other movements. The melody includes quotes from piano sonata no. 29 and Beethoven’s fifth symphony too. It lasts for about twenty seconds until 0:57. At 0:59 Ives plays a distant chime that seemingly reinforces the idea of a small Beth Alcott playing the piano in the midst of the commotion and sounds of daily life. There is a short bit of new melodic content before the human faith melody returns at 1:08. This time round, the melody is louder. It is also arguably more frantic. Although the rhythm is repeated, the way pitches are used changes conspicuously. It continues to get louder and faster. “In a gradually excited way” is the actual direction written by Charles Ives in the score. The first climax of the section is at 1:46. It is characterized by a repeat of Beethoven’s Fifth motif. In this section, there seem to be some random high notes which symbolize an old family piano which may have sticky keys and tuning issues. This takes us back to the motivation of the composition- The Alcotts. The music continues frantically, ever
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