Seeger, Ruth (Porter) Crawford

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Seeger, Ruth (Porter) Crawford

Seeger, Ruth (Porter) Crawford, gifted American composer, folk music researcher, and teacher; b. East Liverpool, Ohio, July 3, 1901; d. Chevy Chase, Md., Nov. 18, 1953. She studied at the School of Musical Art in Jacksonville, Fla., where she then served on its faculty as a piano teacher (1918–21). In 1921 she enrolled at the American Cons. in Chicago, where she received training in piano from Heniot Lévy and Louise Robyn, and in theory and composition from John Palmer and Adolf Weidig. After additional piano studies with Djane Lavoie-Herz, as well as teaching posts at the American Cons. (1925–29) and the Elmhurst (III.) Coll. of Music (1926–29), she went to N.Y. to pursue training in composition with Charles Seeger, whom she married in 1931. A Guggenheim fellowship in 1930 allowed her to complete her studies in Berlin and Paris. Upon her return to the U.S., she devoted much time to folk music research and to teaching young children. She transcribed, arranged, and ed. hundreds of folk songs from the collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and pubi, the collections American Folksongs for Children (Garden City, N.Y., 1948), Animal Folksongs for Children (Garden City, N.Y., 1950), and American Folk Songs for Christmas (Garden City, N.Y., 1953). As a composer, Crawford wrote several bold and insightful works in an experimental tonal style. While she anticipated many techniques of the future avant-garde, her last works took on a less dissonant voice and were notably influenced by her folk music research.


orchSuite for Small Orch. (1926); Rissolty Rossolty (1939). chamber: Violin Sonata (Chicago, May 22, 1926); Suite for 5 Winds and Piano (1927; rev. 1929; Cambridge, Mass., Dec. 14, 1975); Suite No. 2 for Strings and Piano (1929); 4 Diaphonie Suites for Various Instruments (1930); String Quartet (1931; N.Y., Nov. 13, 1933); Suite for Wind Quintet (Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 1952). Piano : 5 preludes (1924–25); 4 preludes (1927–28); Piano Study in Mixed Accents (1930). VOCAL : Adventures of Tom Thumb for Narrator and Piano (1925); 5 songs for Voice and Piano, after Sandburg (1929); 3 chants: No. 1, To an Unkind God, for Women’s Chorus, No. 2, To an Angel, for Soprano and Chorus, and No. 3, for Soprano, Alto, and Women’s Chorus (all 1930); 3 songs for Alto, Oboe, Percussion, Piano, and Optional Orch., after Sandburg: No. 1, Rat Riddles (N.Y., April 21, 1930), No. 2, In Tall Grass (Berlin, March 10, 1932), and No. 3, Prayers of Steel (Amsterdam, June 14, 1933); 2 Ricercari for Voice and Piano: No. 1, Sacco, Vanzetti and No. 2, Chinaman, Laundryman (both 1932).


M. Gaume, R.C. S.: Memoirs, Memories, Music (Metuchen, N.J., 1986); J. Straus, The Music of R.C. S. (Cambridge, 1995); J. Tick, R.C. S.: A Composer’s Search for American Music (N.Y, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire