Postface to 114 Songs/Introductory Note

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SOMETIME in the first half of 1920, Ives jotted down a schedule of "things to be done" on the back of a page from an early draft of the "Postface" to 114 Songs, which reads as follows:

1. Article for Eastern Underwriter "Small Policies" (by Aug 1).

2. Prefaces & Sonata[1] for Schirmer (by July 25).

3. Finish and copy "Circus Day Band" (as soon as possible).

4. After 1 & 2 are finish work daily on correcting "Majority."

5. Score #3 N. E. Holidays "4th of July" (anytime before Oct. 1)

6. (correct) Presentation, Torts (Insurance).

7. Send "20 Amendment" paper to magazines[2] (anytime).

8. Address list for "Musical Courier" of names to send sonata (after Oct. or Nov.)

9. Select & correct 25 or 30[3] songs for printing—also set English words for some of the German (Oct. or Nov.).

This schedule is a valuable summary of Ives' projects during a crucial period in his life. The last item ("Select & correct 25 or 30 songs") was not taken care of in October or December of 1920 as Ives had hoped, but in 1922, when the number of songs had grown to one hundred and fourteen. The collection was privately printed at Ives' expense by G. Schirmer of New York. While the volume has no preface, there are a number of footnotes for individual songs. What in most books would have been a preface—a general description of the contents, and an exposition of the composer's point of view—turns up modestly at the very end, as a "postface," so to speak (the text has no caption, nor is it mentioned in the index).

The "Postface" of 114 Songs is one of Ives' most intriguing bits of prose. Its nervous loquaciousness, its not-too-subtle humor, and its bewildering syntax all would appear to cover the same sort of bashfulness Ives displayed at the age of thirteen, when he remained in the back yard playing handball against the barn door while his father's band marched past the house playing his "Holiday Quickstep" (see Cowell, p. 27). Ives' adaptation of "The Danbury Newsman's" introduction to Life in Darbury ("I have not written a book at all—I have merely cleaned house"), while possibly a true description of the act of assembling the contents, is deceptively casual. It is now generally agreed that his song collection is the richest one of its kind by an American composer.

The materials for the "Postface" in the Collection are:

1. A number of rough notes and jottings (it is on the back of one of these pages that Ives' schedules is found).

2. A manuscript which can be designated as the first real draft.

3. A second and final manuscript.

4. A carbon of the typescript (p. 1 is missing) made from the final manuscript (Item 3). The version printed in the volume of 114 Songs follows the final manuscript and typed copy quite faithfully. That version has been used here except for the punctuation, which has been revised slightly. A few small mistakes have been corrected on the basis of the manuscripts, and occasional variants have been noted. Items 2 and 3 above have been called respectively (in the Notes) MS. 1 and MS. 2.

  1. The first edition of the Concord Sonata. (The "prefaces" were excerpts from Essays Before a Sonata.)
  2. Ives sent the paper to the Atlantic Monthly on May 26, 1920, and two weeks later he sent it to The Outlook.
  3. Eventually 114 Songs (1922).