As a student at the Manhattan School of Music, my attempt to understand how music conveyed emotion and extra-musical ideas captured my full attention. What were the tools that composers used to accomplish that? I delved into the literature of the 17th and 18th centuries exploring ideas, now largely forgotten, about how certain melodic intervals (rising and falling) expressed certain emotions. I read many contemporary attempts to understand how music, from a psychological perspective, was perceived. As a music theory major, the various papers I wrote were often on this subject, with an early paper examining Mahler’s early brilliant work, Das Klagende Lied, from that perspective.
As a graduate student, for my thesis, I examined the 200 some-odd songs by Charles Ives. What led me to that choice of topic was the realization, as I became familiar with his work and tried to understand the hugely varying techniques he employed, that his songs were a key. It was in the songs, where words were wedded to music, that I could perhaps find what he had in mind when making compositional decisions and deciding to employ one technique as opposed to another. It became apparent as I went from one song to another, that there were patterns to his decision making. Certain musical techniques were consistently applied to certain subjects in the song texts he was setting. It gradually became evident to me that none of that was random. Rather, Ives had definite ideas linking musical technique to certain non-musical, philosophical ideas and that, if one could establish these relationships by examining his songs, one could use that understanding to realize that his music without words was also telling a story, depicting ideas without words.
The thesis sat on a shelf for decades until relatively recently I came across it and decided to convert it to PDF so it could be shared.