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Miller, M.C. (1993). Charles Ives: 'My Father's Song': By Stuart Feder. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1992. Pp. 396.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:864-866.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:864-866

Charles Ives: 'My Father's Song': By Stuart Feder. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1992. Pp. 396.

Review by:
Michael Craig Miller

A psychoanalytic biography may be more useful for the questions it asks than for the answers it provides. Stuart Feder, by drawing attention to Charles Ives's boyhood—and in particular to his close yet conflicted relationship with his father George—has made a major contribution to our understanding of the first great and quintessentially American composer.

What is innovative about this biography is its being two biographies in one. Dr Feder devotes the first quarter of the book to George Ives and makes a good case for how the father figured continuously in both the musical and non-musical life of the son. George had immense talent and was the explorer who stretched Charles's ears and forever represented the musical ideal in Charles's mind. An ideal and idealised figure, George also had human problems, and Feder outlines them exhaustively. Thus, we come to entertain the possibility of an unconscious ambivalence behind Charles's idolatry. George Ives was a lively and inventive band leader, a leader of men, a capable master of several intruments. Feder points out, however, that in nineteenth-century small-town America, being a musician was not a source of pride for a man and George's inability to provide adequately for his family forced him to rely—perhaps to his shame—on the mercantile prosperity of his older brothers.

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