Next year will be the centenary of Charles Edward Ives' birth -- arguably America's greatest composer, this eccentric figure from Connecticut, a loner whose business acumen and imagination made him a millionaire as a New York insurance broker, is certainly among the most inventive, fertile, and far-seeing composers in history. His experiments with polyrhythmic and polytonal textures, his explorations of quarter-tones, optional and interchangeable instrumentation, as well as his experiments with ""interval series"" and 12-tone composition, anticipated by years the efforts of Bartok, Berg, and Schoenberg who are generally credited with these innovations. Beyond technique, Ives is America's first serious composer to write music in a distinctively American voice; combining elements of 19th century romantic, popular, folk, and jazz, he fused them into vibrantly stimulating compositions whose spiritual rapport (like Ives' own) is with the transcendentalists -- Thoreau, Emerson, et al. David Wooldridge, a British composer, conductor, and musicologist, brings to this study two salient virtues: assiduous biographical research and a knowledge of Ives' music, which enable him to illuminate much about the man and his work. The book's failing is the author's style: ubiquitous, choppy and colloquial sentences, elisions, interstitial lists of names, dates, quotations, and. marginalia, emerge in deadening proliferation to blur rather than enhance the interest a reader might otherwise bring to Ives.