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Encyclopedia > Ruth Crawford Seeger

Ruth Crawford-Seeger (July 3, 1901 in East Liverpool, Ohio - November 18, 1953 in Chevy Chase, Maryland), born Ruth Crawford, was a modernist composer. Initially influenced by Alexander Scriabin, in the twenties and early thirties Crawford-Seeger wrote atonal works based on the music of Schoenberg and her teacher then husband Charles Seeger's dissonant counterpoint.

She studied piano with her mother and Djane Lavoie Herz, composition with Adolf Weidig and Charles Seeger (Hisama 2001, p.3).

She married Charles in 1932. After embracing leftist communist-like politics during the great depression she turned her attentions to ethnomusicology and transcribing folk songs for John and Alan Lomax, raising her children, Michael Seeger and Peggy Seeger, and her step-son Pete Seeger while writing works inspired by or harmonizing folk songs. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1936 and she began work for the Library of Congress, transcribing for Our Singing Country and Folk Song USA by John and Alan Lomax. Her own book, American Folk Songs for Children, was published in 1948.

She briefly returned to her modernist roots in early 1952 with Suite for Wind Quintet, shortly before her death.

Her compositions include her String Quartet (1931), part of which was later orchestrated as Andante, for string orchestra, Two Ricercari with text by H. T. Tsiang ("Sacco, Vanzetti" and "Chindaman, Laundryman"), and settings of poems by Carl Sandburg, who originally introduced her to folk songs.


  • Hisama, Ellie M. (2001). Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052164030X.

External links

  • Ruth Crawford Seeger Index to Information on this website (http://www.pegseeger.com/html/rcsindex.html), including
    • Ruth Crawford Seeger Biography in 600 words (http://www.pegseeger.com/html/dio.html) by David Lewis with a note by Peggy Seeger
  • Institute for Studies in American Music (ISAM) Newsletter: Ruth Crawford Seeger's Contributions to Musical Modernism (http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/isam/rcstraus.html) by Joseph N. Straus, Fall 2001 Volume XXXI, No. 1



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