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The Unanswered Ives

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The Unanswered Ives (2018)
Created byAnne-Kathrin Peitz
Developed byAccentus Music/WDR
Written byAnne-Kathrin Peitz
Directed byAnne-Kathrin Peitz
Presented byArte
StarringJohn Adams
Jack Cooper
James Sinclair
Jan Swafford
Country of originGermany
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Paul Smaczny
Producer(s)Maria Stodtmeier
Production location(s)Berlin, Germany
Leipzig, Germany
New York, N.Y.
Danbury, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut
CinematographyMitja Hagelüken
Editor(s)Dirk Seliger
Camera setupUlf Wogenstein, Christoph Wonneberger (sound)
Running time00:54:00
Production company(s)Accentus Music GmbH
Arte [de/fr]
WDR - Westdeutscher Rundfunk [de]
Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung
DistributorWDR - Westdeutscher Rundfunk [de]
Original networkWDR, Arte
Picture formatHDTV 16:9 (for television)
16:9 NTSC (for DVD)
Audio formatPCM Stereo
Dolby digital 5.1
DTS 5.1 Surround
Original releaseSeptember 22, 2019 (Arte)
External links
Production website

Amazon.com Logo.png Search The Unanswered Ives on Amazon.

The Unanswered Ives is an award-winning, hour long documentary about the life and musical career of the American composer Charles Ives.[1] Written and directed by German film maker Anne-Kathrin Peitz, the documentary features Ives' early years in Danbury, CT, his musical relationship with his father, education at Yale and later career as insurance executive and composer. The documentary was commissioned by and produced for Arte and WDR television for broadcast and later distributed as part of a double DVD set.


The Unanswered Ives is first full length documentary film about Charles Ives, the eminent American “weekend composer”. A wealth of music experts on Ives are interviewed as well as musical performances of Ives' music. Key musicologists, musicians, Insurance brokers, relatives and eyewitnesses give their insight to who was Charles Ives.

Outlined in the content of the film, Ives as a teenager composes dance melodies as well as church hymns, also becoming the youngest organist in all Connecticut at age 14. He also has great agility in sports; Ives is appointed captain of the football team at Yale University before he also becomes the most successful life insurer in the United States. Charles Ives is regarded today as the first composer of the modern age in America. Born only one month after Arnold Schoenberg but disconnected by the Atlantic Ocean, Ives is the first in America to delve into twelve-tone music. He composes atonal and polyphonic works, also using quartertones and tone clusters. The Unanswered Ives is also an exploration of his multi-faceted personality. The 60-minute documentary on Ives’ outlines his life and work in all its facets and inconsistencies.

The film contains performances contains in churches, concert halls and out in the open air. Elaborate, well-recorded music performances form the crux of the film. The artist and business man was strongly influenced by his native New England, impressions of landscapes, places and events make up a great deal of the documentary. Insurance brokers, musicologists, musicians and eyewitnesses give their own answers to the question which has hardly yet been answered today: who was Charles Ives?


After numerous successful collaborations on music documentaries between Accentus Music, WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) and Arte T.V., an agreement was signed in 2017 to complete a definitive documentary on American composer Charles Ives. The idea was generated by award-winning film director Anne-Kathrin Peitz and backed by Accentus Music owner Paul Smaczny.[2]

Production and documentary[edit]

Most of the Peitz' on location cinematography in the New England region was completed in late Spring of 2018. Part of the exterior filming was hampered by four tornadoes on May 15, 2018.

Live filming was completed on June 1st 2018 in Berlin, Germany at the Hochschule der populären Künste recording studio. Editing and final credits were completed at the end of September 2018 in Leipzig, Germany.[3] Post-production color processing was completed at Trickkiste Studios.[4]

Premieries, presentations and distribution[edit]

The first showing of The Unanswered Ives (exclusive American premiere) was in the United States on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on October 13, 2018.[5] This was in conjunction the North Carolina Repertory Jazz Orchestra concert playing the music of the Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra album.[6]

The documentary received it's European premiere on April 9th, 2019 in Mannheim, Germany at the Popakademie Baden-Württemberg during the 15th edition of the International Forum for Music, ‘’The Look of Sound’’.[7] Arte Television’s initial broadcast of The Unanswered Ives documentary was through the ARD network on Saturday, September 22, 2019 (11:20 PM- 12:15 AM programming slot, CET) and was re-broadcast on Sunday, September 29 at 9:20 a.m.[8][9] The classical and archival music station SWR2 in Baden-Württemberg, Germany broadcast an extensive 6 minute segment on the Südwestrundfunk Meeting Point Classic show about the combined DVD: Universe, Incomplete/The Unanswered Ives.[10]

Other European and Middle Eastern Film festivals The Unanswered Ives was presented on include the Projection Music’Arte and the Golden Prague International Film Festival.[11][12] The documentary was entered into and shown at 5th Beirut Art Film Festival (BAFF) in Lebanon, held at the American University of Beirut. The film was shown on Wednesday, December 11th, 2020 at 7:00 PM.[13]

The DVD of The Unanswered Ives was released by Accentus Music for purchase in November of 2019 as part of a two DVD set, Charles Ives – UNIVERSE, INCOMPLETE//THE UNANSWERED IVES.[14] The first DVD, UNIVERSE, INCOMPLETE, is a live production directed by Christoph Marthaler, music conducted by Titus Engel with stage design by Anna Viebrock. They developed a highly individual take on Ives' unfinished project: the Universe Symphony. The second CD is Anne-Kathrin Peitz production: The Unanswered Ives.

Critical reception and professional ratings[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
BBC Music Magazine
United Kingdom
4/5 stars[15]
Neue Musikzeitung
Highly favorable[16]
5/5 stars[17]
Highly favorable[18]
Sonograma Magazine
Highly favorable[19]
Online MerkerFavorable[20]

"The Unanswered Ives is a gentle portrait which neither attempts nor pretends to be comprehensive – as the title implies, it poses more questions than it answers. The small-town environment of his childhood and youth are well-conjured up though and there’s an impressive roll-call of experts, who don’t outstay their welcome. The interwoven performances are straightforwardly presented"

Martin Cotton, BBC Music Magazine

"...A solid Ives documentary completes this outstanding publication..."

Juan Martin Kock, Neue Musikzeitung (translated)

"In the almost one-hour film The Unanswered Ives musical recordings as well as statements from musicians and residents from Ives' birthplace in Danbury, Connecticut, give in brief sketches a friendly but not exaggerated look at this enfant terrible of the US American music scene."

Uwe Krusch, Pizzicato (translated)


The Unanswered Ives – Pioneer in American Music was awarded the Czech Crystal for “Best Documentary Dedicated to Music, Dance and Theater” at the 2019 Golden Prague Film Festival. The Award Ceremony was held Saturday, September 28th, 2019 in Prague and broadcast live by Czech Television on CT Art Cultural Channel.[21][22][1]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2019 56th Golden Prague Film Festival Best Documentary Dedicated to
Music, Dance and Theater
The Unanswered Ives –
Pioneer in American Music
Won [1]



  • John Adams
  • Mark D. Boughton
  • Jack Cooper
  • Charron Fullerton
  • James Sinclair
  • Nancy Sudik
  • Jan Swafford
  • Charles Tyler (Ives)
  • Sarane Wilkes (Ives)


  • Stephen Drury
  • Ralf Mielke
  • Nicholas Quardokus
  • Andreas Seidel
  • Steffen Schleiermacher
  • Hendrick Schnöker
  • Julia Sophie Wagner

Featured musical ensembles[edit]

  • Jugendsinfonieorchester Leipzig
  • Leipzig Ives Choir
  • Yale Glee Club and Camerata

Production crew[edit]

  • Executive producer: Paul Smaczny
  • Producer: Maria Stodtmeier
  • Writer and director: Anne-Kathrin Peitz
  • Cinematography/camera: Mitja Hagelüken
  • Sound Recording: Christoph Wonneberger
  • Editor: Dirk Selinger
  • Assistant director: Marina Mattner
  • Audio producer: Christopher Tarnow
  • Sound editing and mix: Toine Mertens
  • Lighting: Henrick Thomas, Rene Richter
  • Additional camera: Scott Ruderman, Jens Wagner
  • Camera assistant and drone operator: Ulf Wogenstein
  • Dolly: Sandro Große
  • Production assistant (U.S.): Dana Kalmey
  • Floor manager: Carmen Belaschk, Scott Ruderman
  • Color grading: Kay Dombrowsky
  • Assistant editors: Karoline Vielemeyer, Martına Graczyk


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 List of prize winners for 2019 Golden Prague Film Festival
  2. IMZ Media Centre, START OF FILMING FOR “THE UNANSWERED IVES”, IMZ Industry Newsletter May 2018
  3. End credits, The Unanswered Ives, Accentus Music
  4. Trikkiste Studios, The Unanswered Ives
  5. Film Presentation of "Charles Ives: The Unanswered Ives", UNC CH Campus, October 13, 2018
  6. The North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra, Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra, October 13, 2018, 8:00 pm
  7. ARTE Vorabpremiere Film Cineplex, P4,13 (Planken) Anmeldung erforderlich, The Unanswered Ives, von Anne-Kathrin Petz, 2018 Dienstag, 09. April 2019
  8. programm.ARD.de, Television premiere, The Unanswered Ives, September 22, 2019, 11:20 PM
  9. Television re-broadcast, The Unanswered Ives, September 29, 2019, 9:20 AM
  10. Thursday, February 27, 2020 10:05 a.m., Südwestrundfunk/SWR2 Meeting point classic, SWR2, DVD TIP Charles Ives: Universe, Incomplete/The Unanswered Ives. Re-broadcast several times after
  11. Festival Strasbourg, France, Projection Music’Arte Festival, Palais de la musique et des congrès - salle René Cassin, Strasbourg, France, The Unanswered Ives, Saturday, September 21, 2019, 4:30 PM
  12. Golden Prague International Film Festival, ’'The Unanswered Ives Film #56. Prague, Czech Republic, September 25 - 28, 2019
  13. Beirut Art Film Festival, December 11th, 2020, The Unanswered Ives – Pioneer of American Music at 7:00 pm
  14. Accentus Music site, Charles Ives – UNIVERSE, INCOMPLETE//THE UNANSWERED IVES
  15. Cotton, Martin. BBC Music Magazine. Reviews, Documentaries. The Unanswered Ives. May 2020. pp. 91
  16. Koch, Juan Martin. Neue Musikzeitung. Review. "Universe Symphony / The Unanswered Ives". May, 2020
  17. Krusch, Uwe. Pizzicato Reviews, The paradoxical composer: Charles Ives in sound and image. February 18, 2020
  18. Rothschild, Thomas. Faust Kultur Reviews, Questions without an answer. February 6th, 2020
  19. Miró, Carme. Sonograma Magazine, Review. "Universe Incomplete / The Unanswered Ives". April 29, 2020
  20. Online Merker. DVD / Blu ray: Accentus Music presents two publications on the work and life of the American composer Charles Ives. "Universe Symphony / The Unanswered Ives". January 28th, 2020
  21. 56th Annual Golden Prague International Film Festival, Award Ceremony Saturday, September 28th, 2019
  22. Anne-Kathrin Peitz and Paul Smaczny accepting 56th Annual Golden Prague International Film Festival, "Best Documentary Dedicated to Music, Dance and Theater," Award Ceremony Saturday, September 28th, 2019

External links[edit]

Category:German documentaries

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