Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Life and Work of Ruth Crawford Seeger

We’ll wrap up our topic this month by looking at Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953). There are certainly many more talented women composers that we did not look at this month so if you have a favorite who was not mentioned, let me know and I will consider them for a future month’s discussion!

Ruth Crawford Seeger: Courtesy of wikipedia.org 

Though born in Ohio, Ruth Crawford Seeger spent most of her childhood in Florida, receiving her early music training at the School of Musical Art. In 1920 she moved to Chicago to study at the American Conservatory with multiple teachers including theorist Adolf Weidig and pianist Djane Lavoie Herz. Ruth often attended social gatherings at the Herz home where she met many significant people including Henry Cowell, Dane Rudhyar, and Carl Sandburg. She later would use Sandburg’s poetry in her music.

In 1929, Ruth decided to move to New York where she studied with Charles Seeger, whom she later married. During this time, she became the first woman to win the Guggenheim Fellowship in music, giving her the opportunity to study in Berlin and Paris.

Ruth had a passion for preserving folk music, spending a large part of her life editing field recordings in the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. She sought to be true to the original tune in all of her published transcriptions. Ruth also enjoyed spending her time teaching children about music.

Below you can listen to Ruth’s String Quartet from 1931. She was known as a modernist composer, creating atonal, dissonant works.

Next time, join me as I relay violinist Hilary Hahn’s thoughts on her favorite woman composer!

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