The Unanswered Question
(1.)The Unanswered Question by (2.)Charles Ives was first composed in 1908. Ives was an American modernist composer. He is one of the first American composers of international renown, however his music was not widely known during his lifetime, and many of his works were not performed until years after they were first composed.
(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. 1
(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. When I first heard the trumpet, I instantly thought of the Jurassic Park theme. It has a very uplifting sound quality that makes you sit-up straight when you first hear it. The woodwind instruments follow the Trumpet. They gradually get louder and build and are very chromatic. When the textures change, the rhythmic values shorten. Like the Trumpet part, the woodwind section progresses and picks its complexity. The woodwind and strings sound agitated as they are playing at a different tempo. (5.)With the use of Timbre, a rising tempo, changing dynamics, and a spatial separation is used to distinguish layers translates the program into music. 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 is very well done. I love the slow opening that builds with a trumpet. The Trumpet symbolizes the question of existence and the woodwind responds to each instance. The quartet of winds are used to symbolize the answer seeks a reply but become more agitated and frustrated, until the trumpet states the question one final time, only to be answered by silence. Through The Unanswered Question, Ives makes a philosophical statement: in the immensity of creation, a question speaks louder than an answer. 2 After reading about the background of the song from the composer it reminds me of how small we really are in the universe.
(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