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Country Mouse: Giles Wood - Music is not the food of love, says Mary

Regulars | By Giles Wood

Balen Minerva among the Muses - Wiki Media Commons

My wife enquired why I have such an appetite for listening to what she calls ‘maddening’ music.

My wife enquired why I have such an appetite for listening to what she calls ‘maddening’ music. It all started at Shrewsbury School in the 1970s. Our time outside lessons was our own, and one afternoon I was so utterly bored that I wandered up to my dorm and turned on the wireless. It was Radio 3 and they were playing Putnam’s Camp, a piece by the American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954). I was instantly hooked – and it started a lifelong interest in the composer whom Leonard Bernstein described as ‘a primitive’. This term is a misnomer. Ives was in fact an outsider, a businessman by day who composed – by night, or while on the train to work – music of the utmost sophistication. He anticipated the modern techniques of layering and collage, the use of half-tones and microtones. In his attempt to recreate the sounds of his...


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