The plight of the Ives House
Classical music lovers who subscribe to the "think globally, act locally" philosophy now have a chance to put their beliefs into action. As you may heave read or heard, the Redding, Connecticut cottage in which composer Charles Ives lived in the last years of his life may be torn down to make way for a development. That's Ives and his wife Harmony sitting outside the cottage in the 1950s above on the left, and the cottage as it now stands on the right. Read more about Ives in Redding here.
Charles Ives. What an immense contribution he made to American culture! Visionary, prophetic, all-encompassing, his music captures as well as any art of his time the spirit of a barely hundred-year old nation making the wrenching transition from the old ways to the new. A Yalie who spent his working years as an insurance executive in New York, Ives was no hayseed. But along with the bustling city, the village square and the cozy parlor, his music gives sound to the rural landscape of his beloved New England.
And these sounds have particular resonance to me. I grew up in Ridgefield, Connecticut, adjacent to both Redding and Danbury, where Ives was born in 1874. I drove by both his birthplace and country cottage many times on visits to relatives and other excursions. Thanks (as always) to Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts," I became entranced by this eccentric composer who was once in my midst even before my love of classical music was sparked. He's my composer, and his music is my music.
All that said, you'll have to read elsewhere for criticisms of the developer's plans or calls for government intervention to save this precious landmark. Perhaps my years fundraising for public radio have instilled the belief that to preserve something we believe in, the best action is individual action. So, for more information, check out the "Save the Charles Ives House" Facebook page. If you're in need of further motivation, give a listen to "Putnam's Camp, Redding, Connecticut," the second of the "Three Places in New England" (and stay tuned for the sublime "The Housatonic at Stockbridge"). One of Ives's coolest pieces, "Putnam's Camp" depicts a child's 4th of July visit to a revolutionary war site very close the composer's endangered cottage. How did Ives even think such sounds were possible in 1912? That's genius for you. Our genius.