Ever since Major League Baseball returned to the Washington, D.C. area in 2005, those of us who live here have enjoyed rooting for our local team each spring and summer. While baseball and music are not synonymous, there is a wonderful connection between the two that includes musicals such as Damn Yankees, operas (such as The Mighty Casey by William Schuman), and the old classic song, “Take me out to the Ball Game.” Players even use “walk-up songs” as they step to the plate, such as “Circle of Life” (from The Lion King), “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns ‘n’ Roses), and “Bad Blood” (Taylor Swift). While no one today uses the music of Charles Ives (1874-1954) to step into the batter’s box, his work has an athletic lineage with such thematic titles as The Yale-Princeton Football Game, Baseball Take-off, and this month’s “Hidden Gem” of the NLS collection, “Some South-Paw Pitching”.
Ives played baseball on the Hopkins Grammar School team in 1893, and even pitched a game against the Yale freshmen. He would enroll at Yale in 1894 to study composition with Horatio Parker. After graduation, Ives worked as a life insurance broker by day and an organist and composer in evenings and on weekends. His musical works were rarely performed or championed during his life, and it took the advocacy of Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland, and many others to bring his music to the concert hall.
“Some South-Paw Pitching” (otherwise known as Study no. 21) is one of 27 “take-offs” based on studies by Frédéric Chopin. Ives used different techniques of borrowing in his music, whether it was through imitating the style of a composer or time period, quoting a hymn tune or famous melody (the entire “Concord” Sonata is based on Beethoven’s famous opening motif from the Fifth Symphony), or by layering different existing melodies on top of each other. This work was composed in 1909, and was intended to serve as a study to strengthen the left hand (otherwise known as the “south-paw”).
Throughout the piece, Ives pays homage to J.S. Bach, Stephen Foster, and hymn tunes. “Joy to the World” and “All Saints New” are spun in different keys throughout the study with interjections of Bach’s Invention in F major (where Bach used his own initials “B-A-C-H” to create his own theme) and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. Not limiting his borrowing to the works of others, Ives even quotes and imitates the style of his own Second Symphony throughout. As “Some South-Paw Pitching” was referred to by Richard Trythall as “…a piano transcription of an imaginary song,” Ives must have had many imaginary songs going on in his head at once!
Whichever “paw” you favor, we hope you enjoyed reading about Charles Ives and “Some South-Paw Pitching”. For further exploration, please sample some of the following selections from the NLS Music and general collection that relate to this blog. You can download them from BARD or ask for hard copy scores and audio-cartridges from the NLS Music Section. Please feel free to contact us to find out about more music materials you may like to borrow by calling 800-424-8567, extension 2, or e-mail us at [email protected]
Bernstein, Leonard. Leonard Bernstein Discusses Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Eroica Symphony, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the Music of Charles Ives. Discussion and excerpts from these works. (DBM00705)
Whorf, Mike. Thanksgiving Special. Thanksgiving Thoughts and Gratitudes. Music includes Charles Ives’s “Thanksgiving”, and performances by Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Temple University Concert Choir; Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, conductor. (DBM00921)
Adler, Richard. Damn Yankees: A New Musical Based on the Novel. Libretto in contracted braille. (BRM35679)
Chopin, Frédéric. Complete Works. II, Studies for the Piano. These studies were imitated by Ives in many of his “Take-Offs”, particularly in the work discussed here, “Some South-Paw Pitching.” Bar over bar format. (BRM23322)
The Great Book of Children’s Songs. Includes “Take me out to the Ball Game.” Transcribed in open score with chord symbols by Roger Firman. (BRM36188)
Guns n’ Roses. Appetite for Destruction. Includes “Welcome to the Jungle,” a popular “walk-up” song used to introduce batters in Major League Baseball. For guitar and voice in section by section format. (BRM35689)
Ives, Charles. Adeste Fidelis: in an Organ Prelude. Bar over bar format. (BRM22811)
____ At the River. For voice and piano in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM36473)
____ Some South-Paw Pitching. For piano in bar over bar format. (BRM22906)
____ Thirteen Songs for Voice and Piano. Bar over bar format. (BRM23992)
____ Variations on “America”. For organ in bar over bar format. (BRM22307)
____ Walking. For voice and piano in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM25930)
John, Elton. Circle of Life. From the musical The Lion King, this song is often used to introduce batters in Major League Baseball. Lyrics by Tim Rice. For voice and piano in section by section format. (BRM34928)