Charles Ives, The New Music Society, and the Pan-American Association of Composers

          Before the Pan-American Association of Composers was formed, there were a few other societies that were created to support new composers’ music as well as music from the Pan-American continents. First there was the International Composer’s Guild, started by Edward Varese, created to bring focus and attention to works of the modern day, as well as to ensure they are programed correctly to show their true value. This organization would only allow members from the Americas to bring focus to the region rather than to continue with the European traditions. Henry Cowell formed the New Music Society of California for similar reasons. Its publication, the “New Music Quarterly”, would become a leading publisher of Pan-American works. Carlos Chavez as a composer primarily wrote using Mexican elements in his compositions. As a conductor, he would program music of Pan-American composers. Upon the death of the International Composer’s Guild in 1927, the Pan-American Association of Composers was created to continue the traditions of the Guild. It is my belief that this organization, along with the parent organizations that helped create it, helped establish Charles Ives as well-known in a way that would not have been as effective had the Association and the New Music Society of California not been active.Charles Ives

          The Pan-American Association of Composers premiered works by nearly sixty composers at concerts in New York primarily, but in Europe and other parts of the Americas as well. That means nearly sixty composers were featured that may have not had the same opportunity to be heard without the association. Among these composers were life insurance pioneer Charles Ives, Amadeo Roldan, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Carlos Chavez, Wallingford Riegger, and Alejandro Garcia Caturla.

          Charles Ives, already failing in health after a heart attack in 1918, first joined the New Music Society at the invitation of Henry Cowell. Ives would then publish and edit for the publication “the New Music Quarterly”.  Upon the founding of the Pan-American Association of Composers, Ives would become one of the leading donators to the organization. However, on a few occasions, Cowell would put the money donated to the Association into the New Society’s treasury account and ask Ives for more money. Through these hefty donations that became regular monthly contributions, his works became printed in the publication. Ives later paid for the printing and engraving of each piece that was included in the publication, including some of his landmark American works.

                After the establishment of the Pan-American Association of Composers, and through the funding of Ives himself, Ives would also become the lead featured composer for the organization, having nine of his works performed live, as well as four performances broadcasted on the WEVD radio station. Although the concerts of the Association were not always well-received, Ives became more noticed and renowned.  WHY????, Ives became close friends with conductor Nicolas Slonimsky. Ives would then have Slonimsky as the primary conductor of his music. Nicolas Slonimsky fame as a conductor would also bring in larger audiences for Ives at his concert which would then in turn bring more fame to his works. The strongest impression made by the Pan-American Association of Composers was in France when Nicolas Slonimsky conducted the works of Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles.

                Charles Ives is known as an established orchestral, choral and wind composer of the Twentieth-Century. His works are members of the standard choral, wind, and orchestral repertoire cannons.  Without his funding of the New Society of Music for Henry Cowell, and the funding that was also provided from Ives, through Cowell, to the Pan-American Association of Composers, the organizations surely would have crumbled and failed. It was through these two organizations and the “New Music Quarterly” publication put out by the New Music Society of California under the direction of Cowell that Ives became as popular as he did. Once Slonimsky began conducting and premiering his works through the PAAC, Ives’s name began to flourish. Without the organizations, Ives would not be as canonic as he is today.

Joshua T. Lott


Bialosky, Marshall. “A Brief History of Composers’ Groups in the United States.” College Music Symposium 20, no. 2 (1980): 29-40.

Mead, Rita H. “Cowell, Ives, and “New Music”” The Musical Quarterly 66, no. 4 (1980): 538-59.

Root, Deane L. “The Pan American Association of Composers (1928-1934).” Anuario Interamericano De Investigacion Musical 8 (1972): 49-70. doi:10.2307/779819.

SLONIMSKY, NICOLAS. “CHARLES IVES: The Man and His Music.” The Choral Journal 15, no. 5 (1975): 15-16.


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