Ruth Crawford Seeger

Biography

Born: July 3, 1901; East Liverpool, OH   Died: November 18, 1953; Chevy Chase, MD  
Ruth Crawford was born to an itinerant Methodist minister and his wife. Upon graduating from high school, Crawford entered Foster's School of Musical Art in Jacksonville, FL, studying piano. The Foster School relocated to Miami in 1921, and Crawford enrolled in the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She stayed until 1929, studying composition and theory with Adolf Weidig. Weidig encouraged her early efforts, and with her first Piano Read more Preludes of 1924 Crawford had already developed her own unique modern voice.

In 1926, Crawford composed her Sonata for Violin and Piano; performed at modern music concerts in the late '20s, it prompted a critic to remark that Crawford could "sling dissonances like a man." She was recognized early on as a woman composer who did not fit the sentimental stereotypes associated with the standard profile. In Chicago, Crawford joined the circle of Djana Lavoie Herz, pianist and ex-follower of Scriabin; through Herz she met Dane Rudyhar, Henry Cowell, and pianist Richard Bühlig. Cowell quickly became a supporter of Crawford's work, arranging for performances of her music in New York and publishing it in the periodical New Music Quarterly. Crawford worked as a piano teacher for the children of poet Carl Sandburg; it was he who first interested her in American folk songs. She contributed arrangements to his 1927 book The American Songbag, and later created significant original settings to eight of his poems.

By 1930, Ruth Crawford was a force to be reckoned with in American modernism. Stylistically, her work stood out in its uncompromising use of dissonance, contrapuntal ostinati, striking choice of texts and tidy formal construction. In March 1930, Crawford won a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel to Europe; the first woman so honored. In Berlin, Crawford composed Three Chants set to a wordless text for women's chorus; this eerie, experimental work has no obvious parallels to any music written before the 1960s. The following year witnessed her most famous work, String Quartet 1931, and with its publication Crawford provided the definitive foil to the old maxim that women "just can't write" classical music with the strength and seriousness of male composers.

In 1929, she began study with Charles Seeger, a key figure in American music as a composer, theorist and musicologist. They married in 1932. She likewise adopted several of Seeger's theoretical methods that mark the works of her most productive period, 1930-1933; however, her composing came to a virtual standstill around 1934. Among her children with Seeger were daughter Peggy and son Mike, both to become renowned folk singers and teachers in adulthood. In 1936, the Seegers moved to Washington, D.C., to work in folk song collecting for the Library of Congress. Crawford acted as transcriber for the book Our Singing Country and, with Charles Seeger, for Folk Song USA, both authored by John and Alan Lomax. As Ruth Crawford Seeger she published her own pioneering collection, American Folk Songs for Children, in 1948, designed for use in elementary grades. This and the other "Crawford Seeger" books are regarded as key texts in primary music education, and were widely adopted and imitated in the field. Crawford only returned to serious composition with the Suite for Wind Quintet in 1952. By the time it was completed, she learned she had cancer. Ruth Crawford died at the age of 52. Read less

There are 24 Ruth Crawford Seeger recordings available.

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Works

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Ruth Crawford Seeger


MOST POPULAR WORKS
Tom Sets Out
Tom's First Adventure: Chased By the Angry Tailor's Wife
Tom's Second Adventure: Stealing the King's Dollars
Tom's Third Adventure: Sleeping in a Mousehole
Tom Meets the Mouse: They Gallop Home
Tom Recounts his Adventures
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
Crawford Seeger: Three Chants - 1. To An Unkind God
Crawford Seeger: Three Chants - 2. To An Angel
Crawford Seeger: Three Chants - 3. To A Kind God
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 1. Rubato assai
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 2. Leggiero
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 3. Andante
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 4. Allegro possibile
I. Vibrante agitato
II. Buoyant
III. Mistico intense
IV. Allegro
Crawford Seeger: Three Songs - 1. Rat Riddles
Crawford Seeger: Three Songs - 2. Prayers of Steel
Crawford Seeger: Three Songs - 3. In Tall Grass
Crawford Seeger: Suite (1952) - 1. Allegretto
Crawford Seeger: Suite (1952) - 2. Lento rubato
Crawford Seeger: Suite (1952) - 3. Allegro possibile
I. Lento
II. Leggiero
III. Allegro energico
WORKS
Tom Sets Out
Tom's First Adventure: Chased By the Angry Tailor's Wife
Tom's Second Adventure: Stealing the King's Dollars
Tom's Third Adventure: Sleeping in a Mousehole
Tom Meets the Mouse: They Gallop Home
Tom Recounts his Adventures
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
Crawford Seeger: Three Chants - 1. To An Unkind God
Crawford Seeger: Three Chants - 2. To An Angel
Crawford Seeger: Three Chants - 3. To A Kind God
I. Scherzando
II. Andante
III. Allegro
IV. Moderato, Ritmico
I. Freely
II. Andante cantando
III. Con brio
I. Tranquillo
II. Giocoso
III. Moderato
I. Moderato
II. Andante cantando
III. Scherzando ritmico
Prelude No. 6
Prelude No. 7
Prelude No. 8
Prelude No. 9
Prelude No. 1
Prelude No. 2
Prelude No. 3
Prelude No. 4
Prelude No. 5
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 1. Rubato assai
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 2. Leggiero
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 3. Andante
Crawford Seeger: String Quartet 1931 - 4. Allegro possibile
Crawford Seeger: 2 Ricercare - 1. Sacco, Vanzetti
Crawford Seeger: 2 Ricercare - 2. Chinaman, Laundryman
I. Vibrante agitato
II. Buoyant
III. Mistico intense
IV. Allegro
Crawford Seeger: Three Songs - 1. Rat Riddles
Crawford Seeger: Three Songs - 2. Prayers of Steel
Crawford Seeger: Three Songs - 3. In Tall Grass
I. Adagio religioso
II. Giocoso - Allegro non troppo
IIT. Andante tristo
III. Allegro con brio
Crawford Seeger: Music for Small Orchestra (1926) - 1. Slow, pensive
Crawford Seeger: Music for Small Orchestra (1926) - 2. In roguish humor. Not fast
Crawford Seeger: Suite (1952) - 1. Allegretto
Crawford Seeger: Suite (1952) - 2. Lento rubato
Crawford Seeger: Suite (1952) - 3. Allegro possibile
I. Lento
II. Leggiero
III. Allegro energico


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