Charles Ives — Microtonalist. Part II: The Unanswered Question by Charles Ives — Answered


The article is the second in a series of articles dealing with Charles Ives as a microtonal composer. While Ives’ intention to compose in the Pythagorean tuning of spiraling fifths was virtually unknown during his lifetime, it has become widely appreciated in recent decades. The article examines Ives’ famous composition, The Unanswered Question, in terms of the inherent application of the Pythagorean tuning based on perfect fifths, which is proven by the peculiar use of the
sharps and the flats in the piece, as well as the fact of the continual variation of the main theme played by the trumpet upon each successive statement of it. According to the author of the article, the composer attempted to make use of two different tunings of minor thirds in this piece, hence, the “unanswered question” refers to the compatibility of the different tunings implicitly present in the piece. The author substantiates his claim by presenting detailed analysis of certain fragments of Ives’ piece.

The Art of Music