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The composer Ruth Crawford Seeger set out to revolutionize music, then moved into politics. But the world wasn't ready for her songs about Italian anarchists and Chinese laundry workers.
-Charlotte Higgins on an American tragedy.

 

The Ruth Crawford Seeger Sessions

by Ellie M. Hisama

Abstract: Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953), an American experimental composer active in the 1920s and 1930s, devoted the second half of her career to transcribing, arranging, performing, teaching, and writing about American folk music. Many works from Crawford Seeger’s collections for children, including “Nineteen American Folk Songs” and “American Folk Songs for Children,” are widely sung and recorded, but her monumental efforts to publish them often remain unacknowledged. This article underscores the link between her work in American traditional music and Bruce Springsteen’s best-selling 2006 album
“We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” in order to give Crawford Seeger due credit for her contributions. By examining her prose writings and song settings, this article illuminates aspects of her thinking about American traditional music and elements of her unusual and striking arrangements, which were deeply informed by her modernist ear.

 

Read entire article (pdf)

 

Fall 2013, Vol. 142, No. 4, Pages 51-63

Posted Online October 8, 2013.

(doi:10.1162/DAED_a_00236)

© 2013 by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

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