When Charles Ives composed his Three Places in New England suite for orchestra, no one knew what to make of it. Part III, subtitled: "The Housatonic at Stockbridge" was inspired by standing along the edge of the Housatonic River in Stockbridge, CT. Listen to the music and you'll hear two distinct forces: 1) the constant rumble of the current of the river which is in the foreground and 2) the faint strains of a hymn, fragmented at first, barely audible, but slowly growing in force. According to legend, there was a church on the opposite shore of the river from where Ives stood, in which a choir was practicing hymns.
This music was the result, composed in 1921. First performed ten years later. Close your eyes and listen and see if you can picture it as Ives experienced it nearly one hundred years ago.
And if you listen again, you might be able to follow along where these words would go in the hymn he's paraphrasing:
Contented river in thy dreamy realm
The cloudy willow and the plumy elm:
Thou beautiful! from ev'ry dreamy hill
What eye but wanders with thee at thy will.
Contented river! And yet overshy
To mask thy beauty from the eager eye;
Hast thou a thought to hide from field and town?
In some deep current of the sunlit brown.
Ah! there's a restive ripple,
And kind the swift red leaves
September's firstlings faster drift;
Wouldst thou away, dear stream?
Come, whisper near!
I also of much resting have a fear;
Let me tomorrow thy companion be,
By fall and shallow to the adventurous sea!