Introduction / A Life with Ives / Discovery / His Music is About Us / Influence

Artists on Art: John Heiss on Charles Ives

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Artists on Art: John Heiss on Charles Ives explores the work of early 20th century American composer Charles Ives through the eyes of John Heiss: a composer, musician, scholar, conductor, professor at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston, MA, and prominent evangelist for the music of Ives. I filmed an interview with John Heiss in May 2012 at his home in Newton, MA. That interview forms the basis of this piece.

John Heiss on Charles Ives is a short web-native documentary, or "connected" documentary: it uses the browser to extend the normally linear, passive act of watching a video by giving the viewer jumping-off points to delve in the music and history outside the bounds of this website and allowing the viewer to control the pacing and focus of their experience.

John Heiss and I at my graduation from New England Conservatory in 2012.
--Nell Shaw Cohen

The creation of this website was motivated by my desire to share a view of some of Ives’ music and its continuing relevance and timelessness through the eyes of one individual's experience with Ives' music. Heiss has been teaching, coaching, and conducting at NEC for over 45 years. He has touched countless students with his insights into Ives, including myself.

This is the first chapter in a forthcoming series, Artists on Art, featuring interviews with creative individuals who have given sustained contemplation to the work of another artist. Each installment of this series will be a short, carefully curated, easily-consumed introduction to an artist’s work offering routes to deeper exploration.

I've found that one of the most powerful ways to begin engaging with a work of art is to experience it through the eyes of someone who has a genuine passion for it. Oftentimes, it is artists themselves who are most capable of communicating the passion and excitement for art to others.

Artists on Art: John Heiss on Charles Ives was created in a workshop-based course, Connected Documentary, taught by Ben Moskowitz at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program during February-March 2013.

Nell Shaw Cohen (
Creator, Beyond the Notes