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Charles Ives at ‘Christo's Gates’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2010


Throughout its 150-year history New York City's Central Park has inspired writers, painters, poets, and musicians. In 1906 Charles Ives was moved by its rich soundscape to compose his orchestral piece Central Park in the Dark; nearly one hundred years later, in 2005, the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude unfurled 7500 saffron-coloured cloth panels for a sixteen-day installation at the park. Although separated by a century, these artworks appear similarly preoccupied with the construction, manipulation, and perception of nature and place, honouring and celebrating the park as a naturalistic setting, while also acknowledging it as a fabricated entity, shaped by human interactions, and as an ongoing cultural project. The present article suggests parallels between Ives's construction of the park in sound, and ‘Christo's Gates’, as the installation became known – parallels that suggest the continuing resonance of Ives's musical contemplation, as well as the issues that occupied its composer as the Gilded Age gave way to the progressive era.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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