Born in Danbury, Connecticut on 20 October 1874, Charles Ives was recognized as the most original and significant American composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was influenced first by his father, George Ives, a bandmaster who had unconventional ideas about what music might be. He studied with Horatio Parker at Yale from 1894 to 1898 and showed some sign of becoming a relatively conventional composer in his First Symphony (1898). Later, however, he would pursue a fascination with bi-tonal forms and polyrhythms, nurtured by his father.
He worked, not in music but in the insurance business, and composition became a weekend activity. During the two decades after his graduation from Yale, he produced three more symphonies and numerous other orchestral works, four violin sonatas, two monumental piano sonatas and numerous songs.
Ironically, much of Ives's work would not be heard until his virtual retirement from music and business in 1930 due to severe health problems. Henry Cowell was perhaps the most significant figure in fostering public and critical attention for Ives's music, publishing several of the composer's works in his New Music Quarterly.
In 1947, Ives was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 3, according him much deserved international renown. Soon after, his works were taken up and championed by such leading conductors as Leonard Bernstein and, at his death in 1954, he had witnessed a rise from obscurity to a position of unsurpassed eminence among the world's leading performers and musical institutions.