Jesse Jarnow

“all the way around & back” – charles ives

“All the Way Around and Back” – Charles Ives (download) (buy)
conducted by Leonard Bernstein

A Charles Ives piece from 1908 structurally mimics an archaic baseball rule from the composer’s childhood, via Timothy Johnson’s Baseball and the Music of Charles Ives: A Proving Ground:

The additive process aptly represents the gradual process of the runner. If the initial Db that begins each measure symbolizes first base, then each added note tracks the runner’s progress toward third. The skipped additions (moving directly from five to seven and from seven to eleven notes) seem to depict the runner’s increased speed as he builds up momentum heading for third. Finally, the complete pattern is repeated once more, running as fast as he can, before the whole process is reversed beginning with an extra two measures of the final undecatuplet, as the runner returns to first base in the same way that he traveled in the first place — rapidly at first, then easing up as the base is reached.

At first glance the symbolism of the baserunner, speeding up as he rounds the bases and then slowing down as he returns, seems to be lost in this palindromic reversal, since a runner presumably might easily trot back to first base after a foul ball. However, the rule that determined how quickly one must return to the base after a foul ball changed over the years. The rules of 1883 state that “a baserunner who fails to return to his base at a run following a foul ball is liable to be put out by being touched by the ball while off his base.”

(Thx, Jakebrah. Definitely need to read this.)