Skip to main content



Where Additional Conductors Might Be Employed

Thomas M. Brodhead

There are many places where an assistant conductor (or assistant conductors) might prove useful or essential. This will need to be determined by the principal conductor, and is a function of his or her interpretation of the score. To assist the conductor in this process, below is a listing of the most obvious locations where an assistant conductor might be employed (or certainly must be employed):

Movement I

Throughout: The D.C. may benefit from an assistant conductor, as it alternately plays in synchronization with the main orchestra and independently of the main orchestra. Especially helpful to the D.C. would be the coordination of the tutti cut-off at m. 27.

Movement II

mm. 1–5: Although the principal Bassist might lead the entire Bass section in this unmetered (but editorially barred) passage, an assistant conductor might more successfully coordinate the players and ensure that they play at a slightly slower tempo than the Main Orchestra.

mm. 43–51: An assistant conductor is essential for the Upper Orchestra in the “Collapse” section.

mm. 55–58: An assistant conductor would facilitate the Group 2 instruments in this passage by conducting a pulse set off by an eighth rest (R), thereby allowing the players to execute Ives’s original notation in their parts with ease (the alternative, analytical renotation ossias in the parts are difficult to read and to execute on the main quarter beats (T) of the measures).

mm. 115–121: An assistant conductor would facilitate conducting the IN 2 instruments in this passage.

mm. 141–145: An assistant conductor would be indispensible for controlling the “static tempo” group during this passage, as different principal conductors tend to take the decelerando of the Main Orchestra at widely different tempos (some decelerating to a much slower tempo than Ives indicates, typically to great agogic effect). As indicated in the full score, two Extra Violin II players must join the “static group” at the second measure of the passage, and one Extra Violin II player must continue on at its m. 146, each event potentially benefitted by a cue by the conductor of the “static tempo” group.

mm. 149–150: An assistant conductor might cue the Extra Violin II and Low Bells to begin their coordinated pattern, and then cue the Extra Viola to begin thereafter.

mm. 200–207: An assistant conductor would likely control the #2group while the principal conductor would lead the $4group.

mm. 211–216: An assistant conductor would likely control the #2group while the principal conductor would lead the $4group.

Movement IV

Throughout: As explained in BU vs. OU: Tempos in Movement IV in the Survival Guide, an assistant conductor is essential for coordinating the spatially-separated BU with the OU, regardless of whether the interpretive intention is for the BU to follow the OU (the more likely scenario) or for the OU to follow the BU (the less likely scenario).

mm. 59–63: An onstage assistant conductor would be extraordinarily helpful for the instruments in #2, which encompass the entire Violin I and II sections in addition to the Flutes, Oboe, Clarinets, and D.C. Violins. The alternative, analytical notation in $2found as an ossia in the parts is extremely difficult to read and execute. The same conductor might be useful for helping the D.C. group synchronize with the Main Orchestra during the final measures of the movement (mm. 72–88+), thereby assuring that the D.C. dissipates with the BU percussion in the work’s poetic ending.

How Many Assistant Conductors Are Required?

Because the Finale requires a separate conductor for the offstage BU (so that it can coordinate with the OU), and because an onstage assistant conductor is necessary for the instruments in #2mm. 59–63 in the Finale as well, it follows that two assistant conductors would be ideal: one on stage to conduct the polytemporal and multimetric passages in both the Comedy and Finale, and one offstage to coordinate the BU with the OU in the Finale.

The offstage conductor of the BU could additionally help the D.C. group go in and out of synchronization with the main orchestra in the Prelude, although if that group has a clear view of either the main conductor or the onstage assistant conductor (by dent of the location of the D.C. in the hall or through use of video equipment), the D.C. group may be able to coordinate with the main orchestra in both the Prelude and the Finale without its own conductor. Ensuring that the D.C. group is synchronized with the main orchestra during the final measures of the Finale is crucial musically and difficult in terms of execution, as they must subdivide 5 against the #2of the main orchestra. Therefore, the onstage assistant conductor might conduct the D.C. (from a clear vantage point or by using video equipment) from measure 72 to the end in order to facilitate the ending.