Ives embodied a new musical vision, drawing on American realities rather than European tradition. Even in his teens, he wrote startlingly experimental choral pieces. He entered the insurance business, carving out a prosperous career, and pursued his own inclinations in music. Though he could only compose at weekends and evenings, he was extremely prolific, writing in almost every genre.
A democratic idealist, he drew on the vast reservoir of American vernacular music, producing a collective memory of his nation. Debilitating illness forced him to abandon both business and composition. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.