Judith Tick and Ruth Crawford Seeger

When discussing the recent history of American music, it would be remiss to not mention the name Ruth Crawford Seeger.  Her contributions as an educator to budding composers, as well as her contemporary compositions and research in folk traditions, are hugely significant not only in remembering the roots of American music, but also in moving forward in new directions.  Her accomplishments include being the first woman to win a Guggenheim fellowship in 1930, and composing the piece representing the United States in the ISCM Festival in Amsterdam in 1933.  Her career took her from being a composer of experimental and modernist works to a transcriber of folk tunes; however, it is more likely that she is remembered today as the wife of ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger and stepmother to folk singer Pete Seeger.

Thankfully, scholarship on the life and work of Crawford Seeger continues, thanks largely to the biography by Judith Tick.  More information on the biography can be found here.

During Crawford Seeger’s lifetime she worked closely with the Library of Congress in documenting the folk music of the United States.  It is only natural, then, that her papers were donated to the LOC by her family after her death.  In a wonderful partnership with the American Musicological Association, scholars are invited to the LOC to present lectures twice a year on relevant holdings.  In 2008 Tick was invited to give such a talk on Crawford Seeger which was filmed and is available to view online.  Watching the program in its entirety is ideal – but there is also a transcript available if you prefer to read instead of watch.