[Smt-talk] more on movable-do tradition in the U.S. and Great Britain

Carol Baron cbaron at ms.cc.sunysb.edu
Mon Jul 16 14:55:47 PDT 2012

Dear List,

With apologies for self-promotion, Charles Ives's education in the 
movable-do tradition is discussed in my article "George Ives's Essay in 
Music Theory: An Introduction and Annotated Edition" in /American Music 
/10/3 (Fall 1992). It discusses his father's teaching of the Tonic 
Sol-fa System, a movable do system, which George credits to the English 
Congregationalist minister John Curwen (1816-80). A conductor, George 
Ives used the Tonic Sol-fa System to teach just intonation to his 
choruses, because he believed this tuning was more pleasing and 
expressive for the diatonic music they usually sang. George Ives's work 
was mentioned in the first issue of the bulletin of the American branch 
of the Tonic Sol-faists in February 1882.

Curwen's system was extremely popular in Great Britain, where it was the 
basis of a national system for teaching singing; its accomplishments 
were touted in an1884 letter to the London /Times/: "At the most modest 
estimate, during the 30 years our system has been at work, we have 
taught at least the elements of music to four million persons." The 
system fed into the impressive 19th-century English choral tradition and 
its popular organization, whose publications of the works they sang 
included solfège syllables above the musical staves.

Carol K. Baron
cbaron at ms.cc.sunysb.edu

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