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Published on Apr 7, 2014
New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein
The Unanswered Question is a musical work by American composer Charles Ives. Originally paired with Central Park in the Dark as Two Contemplations in 1908. The Unanswered Question was revived by Ives in 1930--1935. As with many of Ives' works, it was largely unknown until much later in his life, and was not performed until 1946.
Against a background of slow, quiet strings representing "The Silence of the Druids", a solo trumpet poses "The Perennial Question of Existence", to which a woodwind quartet of "Fighting Answerers" tries vainly to provide an answer, growing more frustrated and dissonant until they give up. The three groups of instruments perform in independent tempos and are placed separately on the stage—the strings offstage.