Here you can see and listen to the musical examples that appear within the text of Mad Music.
In his Variations on “America” for organ, composed around age seventeen, Ives declared in the opening four measures his rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic independence from the theme—throwing in off-beat stresses, altering the melodic shape, and adding a chromatically colored minor chord even before the first cadence.
One of the madly literal canonic interludes in Variations on “America,” the right hand in the key of F and the left hand following in strict imitation in D<>.
In his song “The Side Show,” originally composed for DKE, his junior-year fraternity at Yale, Ives played off the resemblance between the melody of a popular comic song and the theme from a highbrow symphony.
The slightly madcap final line of “The Side Show,” in which the themes from “Is That Mr. Reilly?” and Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony are superimposed in the voice and piano parts.
In Ives’s literal-imitation fugue on “The Shining Shore,” each part enters a fifth higher, resulting in increasingly dissonant counterpoint in multiple simultaneous keys. This was apparently the composition assignment that provoked his Yale music professor, Horatio Parker, to make a wan joke about “hogging all the keys at one meal.”
After many fragmentary appearances of the hymn tune “The Shining Shore” in the first half of Ives’s “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day,” a dreamlike, dense, atonal miasma melts away into one of the “clearings of serene, cerulean beauty” that Nicolas Slonimsky pointed to as one of the remarkable features of Ives’s music, with the hymn stated for the first time in its entirety in pure simplicity by the violins.
Ives’s evocative joke of the choir singing a beat behind the organlike brass at the climax of “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day.”
(a) In the Second Symphony, Ives wove together memories of different tunes using classical methods of tonal counterpoint.
(b) In later works, such as “Washington’s Birthday,” he often indicated “shadow parts” in which a tune appears faintly in an entirely unrelated key and rhythm, evoking a fleeting memory or distantly heard snatch of music.
The Concord Sonata was the culminating expression of Ives’s ideas, in which he took the most familiar four notes in musical history—the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—and deconstructed them in an extended meditation on musical memory and meaning. In the “Emerson” movement, Ives played with the theme in a series of revelatory explorations: (a) intensifying the harmonies; (b) extending the falling sequence of a third, to echo the hymn “The Missionary Chant”; (c) sending the theme in reverse direction, climbing a third, to segue into the melody that he called “the transcendental theme of Concord.”
In the opening measures of his song “Down East,” Ives compressed the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” to intervals of a semitone, creating an eerie, distorted foreshadowing of the literal quotation that appears later in the piece.