Carl Ruggles

Biography

Born: March 11, 1876; East Marion, MA   Died: October 24, 1971; Bennington, VT  
Carl Ruggles was born to a New England farming family and received his first musical instruction from his mother, who died when he was 14. Ruggles studied violin with Walter Spaulding and Felix Winternitz, theory with Josef Claus, and composition with Harvard educator John Knowles Paine. In 1899-1901 Ruggles published several songs for voice and piano, though only three titles survive; Ruggles had a lifelong habit of destroying older Read more compositions. In 1907, Ruggles settled in Winona, MN, founding a symphony orchestra that yet exists. Ruggles piloted the Winona Symphony for its first ten seasons, and through it met and married the oratorio singer Charlotte Snell. Starting in 1912, Ruggles concentrated his efforts on an opera, The Sunken Bell. Despite acceptance of The Sunken Bell for performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Ruggles never completed it, discarding the score around 1960. He neglected to dispose of a number of sketches relating to this work, and these reveal Ruggles arrived at his mature style during the years he devoted to its composition.

In 1919, Ruggles composed the song Toys as a fourth birthday present for his son Micah; this was the earliest work Ruggles allowed to stand as his own. In 1922, Ruggles joined the International Composers' Guild, founded by Edgard Varèse and Carlos Salzedo to promote the works of avant-garde composers in New York. On December 17, 1922, Ruggles' brass piece Angels was premiered at a Composer's Guild concert. Ruggles followed Angels with Vox clamans in deserto, a setting of seven poems for voice and chamber ensemble. Only three of the songs were heard in a concert of 1924, but the cycle failed to meet Ruggles' standard, and did not appear in print until 1974. Portals for string orchestra followed in 1926, Men and Mountains, a short, three-movement symphony including "Lilacs" for strings, was completed in 1927 and published in the first issue of Henry Cowell's periodical New Music. Also in the late 1920s Ruggles began to paint. Whereas Ruggles' musical reputation rests on only a dozen works, he created more than 300 paintings that were avidly purchased by museums and private individuals.

In 1932, Ruggles completed the orchestral piece Sun-treader, both his largest-scale work and his masterpiece. Ruggles' pieces were subject to years-long gestation periods, the final result produced through a painstaking process of trial and error. Ruggles' music is built out of "crooked" individual lines, frequent dissonances resulting from places where these lines intersect. Rhythmically his work is not complex, but in some respects is difficult to decipher, particularly in manuscripts, which involve sketches written on paper that is of every conceivable shape or size. Throughout his life, Ruggles would rely on the advice of musical friends to assist him with the knotty problems resulting from his style and method, including Varèse, Cowell, pianist John Kirkpatrick, and composer-musicologist Charles Seeger. Seeger first coined the phrase "dissonant counterpoint" in an attempt to describe Ruggles' approach.

In 1935-1942 Ruggles enjoyed his only position as teacher at the University of Miami in Florida. From 1937-1956 Ruggles concentrated his energies on the four Evocations for John Kirkpatrick, creating them in two distinct piano versions and an orchestration. The last completed work in his signature style is the orchestral Organum (1949). In 1957, Charlotte Ruggles died, and he paid tribute to her in his final piece, Exaltation (1958) a hymn setting for wordless chorus and organ based on "God Our Help in Ages Past." Ruggles took up residence in a nursing home in 1966, and died five years later at the age of 95. Read less
Browse 1-17 of 17 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Angels / Marco Blaauw
    Label: Wergo   Catalog: 6781 Release Date: 03/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Liza Lim,  Richard Ayres,  Rebecca Saunders,  Georg Friedrich Haas  ... 
    Performer:  Marco Blaauw
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  • 2.
    The Complete Music Of Carl Ruggles
    Label: Other Minds Records   Catalog: 1020 Release Date: 04/24/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Ruggles
    Performer:  Judith Blegen,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Beverly Morgan,  John Kirkpatrick  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
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  • 3.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 254 Release Date: 08/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Piston,  Carl Ruggles,  Wells Hively,  Howard Swanson
    Conductor:  William Strickland,  Franz Litschauer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
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  • 4.
    The American Composers Series - Piano Music (1900-1945)
    Label: Vox Box   Catalog: 3027 Release Date: 05/27/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  William Schuman,  Roger Sessions,  Roy Harris  ... 
    Performer:  Roger Shields
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  • 5.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 127 Release Date: 04/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Ruggles,  Robert Ward,  Douglas Moore
    Conductor:  Akeo Watanabe,  William Strickland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
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  • 6.
    Higdon: String Poetic;  Adams, Ruggles, Harrison / Jennifer Koh
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 103 Release Date: 04/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Adams,  Lou Harrison,  Carl Ruggles,  Jennifer Higdon
    Performer:  Jennifer Koh,  Reiko Uchida
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  • 7.
    Trumpet Voices / Neal Bernsten
    Label: Four Winds   Catalog: 3026 Release Date: 10/11/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Vierdanck,  Heinrich Ignaz Biber,  Roger Dannenberg,  Igor Stravinsky  ... 
    Performer:  Neal Bernsten
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  • 8.
    Scene American Ultramodernists / Steffen Schleiermacher
    Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog: 6131265 Release Date: 06/21/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dane Rudhyar,  Ruth Crawford Seeger,  Carl Ruggles,  Henry Cowell
    Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher
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  • 9.
    The Uncovered Carl Ruggles / Berman, Stepner, Oldfather, Narucki
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80629 Release Date: 05/31/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Ruggles
    Performer:  Donald Berman,  Daniel Stepner,  Christopher Oldfather,  Susan Narucki
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  • 10.
    American Piano Music Of The 1940s / Sara Laimon
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 685 Release Date: 08/31/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leon Kirchner,  Carl Ruggles,  Leonard Bernstein,  Elliott Carter  ... 
    Performer:  Sara Laimon
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  • 11.
    Americana - 20th Century Works For Orchestra
    Label: Vox Allegretto   Catalog: 8155 Release Date: 08/27/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonard Bernstein,  Elie Siegmeister,  Morton Gould,  Aaron Copland  ... 
    Conductor:  Maurice Abravanel,  Lukas Foss
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Utah Symphony Orchestra,  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 12.
    Ives: Three Places In New England; Ruggles: Sun Treader, Piston / Tilson Thomas, Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Label: Dg The Originals   Catalog: 463633 Release Date: 05/08/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Piston,  Carl Ruggles,  Charles Ives
    Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 13.
    From The Steeples And The Mountains / London Gabrieli Brass
    Label: Helios   Catalog: 55018 Release Date: 08/10/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Roy Harris,  Charles Ives,  Elliott Carter,  Carl Ruggles  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Bowers-Broadbent,  Richard Clews,  Christopher Larkin,  David Lee
    Conductor:  Christopher Larkin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble
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  • 14.
    The Unknown Ives / Donald Berman
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 811 Release Date: 02/09/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Ives,  Carl Ruggles
    Performer:  Donald Berman
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  • 15.
    Ives: Three Places In New England; Ruggles, Et Al / Dohnanyi
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 443776 Release Date: 01/13/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ruth Crawford Seeger,  Carl Ruggles,  Charles Ives
    Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
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  • 16.
    American Masters - Lou Harrison, Carl Ruggles
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 715 Release Date: 09/24/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Lou Harrison,  Carl Ruggles
    Conductor:  Gerhard Samuel,  Akeo Watanabe,  William Strickland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Japan Philharmonic Orchestra,  Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 17.
    Works By Fine, Menotti, Ruggles, Etc / Michael Boriskin
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80402 Release Date: 12/08/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Irving Fine,  Carl Ruggles,  Gian Carlo Menotti,  Harold Shapero
    Performer:  Michael Boriskin
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