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Ives: The Circus Band

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: the Memory Circus is coming to town…

Ives was in the unique position of being a prolific composer whose mature works were rarely performed during his lifetime. This had some interesting consequences for his working method. Since he rarely had any reason to consider a work truly ‘finished’, Ives would frequently revisit and rework old material. “The Circus Band” exists as a song for chorus and orchestra, a song for voice and piano, and (in a more traditional arrangement) as a march composed for Yale University. Ives’s method of composing by ‘looking back’ fits very well with the emphasis on memory in his music, both in the nostalgic text of “The Circus Band,” written by Ives himself, and in his tendency to quote older music in his own compositions.

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