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Charlie Rutlage

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Charles Ives

Charles Ives (trans. James B. Sinclair)

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General Info

Year: 1920
Duration: c. 2:30
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: American folk song
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Ives was fond of transforming his own songs for voice and piano into instrumental works or accompaniments -- as he was equally fond of deriving songs from his instrumental works. Hence, the double life of Charlie Rutlage, Ives's intensely dramatic setting of a cowboy ballad collected by John A. Lomax. The ballad begins as a simple eulogy to the cowpuncher Charlie, proceeds with growing fervency to tell of his being crushed by his falling horse on spring roundup, and concludes with the hope that Charlie will meet his loved ones and parents "face to face ... at the shining throne of grace." Ives had intended his vocal-instrumental version of Charlie Rutlage for inclusion in a set to be named The Other Side of Pioneering, or Side Lights on American Enterprise.

-Program Note by Jonathan Elkus

The second half of the concert took a trad-folk turn with Charlie Rutlage, which Ives took from Alan Lomax’s great anthology of old American folk songs. The ONE concert didn’t have vocalists, just instrumental elements, with song texts presented as liner notes in the program. Ives’ ingenious take on Charlie Rutlage starts folky, but soon breaks apart into a maelstrom of squawks and plinks, then falls on a cushion of soft strings, then gets up and finds its melody again. Sinclair seemed positively invigorated after conducting it. “What a great cowboy song!,” he exulted. “It has a real American feel, doesn’t it?”

-Program note by Chris Arnott for New Haven Independent


State Ratings

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  • New England Conservatory (Boston, Mass.) Wind Ensemble (Charles Peltz, conductor) – 10 November 2022
  • New England Conservatory (Boston, Mass.) Wind Ensemble (Charles Peltz, conductor) – 13 February 2019
  • University of Florida (Gainesville) Wind Symphony (David Waybright, conductor) – 19 January 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer