Richard Steinitz demonstrated that microtonality, used in much new music including rock and jazz, was not new when he programmed a Damascus Sufi ensemble and their 700 years old microtonal music at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2000.
So the Goulds demonstrated – two weeks before HCMF 2013 – that 21st century music is not as new as it seems and follows on from American composer Charles Ives 100 years ago.
Ives experimented with playing in two keys at the same time, and absorbed into his music all the cacophony of his small Connecticut home town, including out-of-tune hymn-singing, out-of-step marching bandsmen, rival groups playing different tunes simultaneously at town festivals.
As a result, he beat Schoenberg and Stravinsky to their apparently brand new techniques by some years, and anticipated the techniques of modernists, post-modernists and all the other musical experimenters right up to the present day.
The Goulds played his Piano Trio of 1911 with open-voiced tone, muscularity and forthrightness that allowed the complexities to be heard in full. The piece is based on Ives’s recollection of student days at Yale.
The first movement reflects a philosophy lecture, the second movement a holiday with tunes such as “Marching through Georgia” and “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay” played at one and the same time, the third movement a campus church service which ends with the hymn “Rock of Ages”.
The Goulds made this a remembrance of time past that was not nostalgic but a coherent expression of Ives’s student experience.
The Ives work was sandwiched between Mozart’s E major and Schubert’s E flat Piano Trios, which were unsurpassably played.
Both prepared the way for the Ives with their own technical innovations – a sort of greeting from the old world of 18th and early 19th century Europe to the new 20th century America.