The Unanswered Question is a work by American composer Charles Ives.
The full title Ives originally gave the piece was "A Contemplation of a Serious Matter" or "The Unanswered Perennial Question". His biographer Jan Swafford called it "a kind of collage in three distinct layers, roughly coordinated." The three layers involve the scoring for a string quartet, woodwind quartet, and solo trumpet. Each layer has its own tempo and key. Ives himself described the work as a "cosmic landscape" in which the strings represent "the Silences of the Druids—who Know, See and Hear Nothing." The trumpet then asks "The Perennial Question of Existence" and the woodwinds seek "The Invisible Answer", but abandon it in frustration, so that ultimately the question is answered only by the "Silences".
October 28, 1991
Our Friends: Thank you very much, doctor. You've been very helpful in explaining his mental state. While we have you on the line, we have one more question. One last question. If we fire him, will he get on with his life, or will he turn himself into a one-man Warren Commission, spending the next 20 years trying to right his perceived wrongs?
Doctor: The doctor searches for The Invisible Answer, but abandons it in frustration, so that ultimately the question is answered only by the Silences.