Discipline: Music Composition

Ruth Crawford

Discipline: Music Composition
MacDowell Fellowships: 1929

Ruth Crawford (1901-1953) was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Upon graduating high school she entered Foster’s School of Musical Art, studying piano. When the Foster School relocated to Miami in 1921, Crawford enrolled in the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where she studied composition until 1929. In 1926 Crawford composed her Sonata for Violin and Piano, which was performed often at modern music concerts in the late 20's.

By 1930, Crawford was widely known for her use of dissonance, contrapuntal ostinato, striking choice of texts and tidy formal construction. In 1930 she was the first woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel to Europe. In Berlin, she composed Three Chants, and soon after String Quartet 1931, her most famous work. Crawford married composer Charles Seeger in 1932. Their children, Pete, Peggy and Mike Seeger, became three of the most well-known folk singers. In 1936 the Seegers moved to Washington, D.C. to work in folk song collecting for the Library of Congress.

As Ruth Crawford Seeger, she published her own pioneering collection, American Folk Songs for Children, in 1948, designed for use in elementary grades. This and the other “Crawford Seeger” books are regarded as key texts in primary music education, and were widely adopted and imitated in the field. She wrote her final composition, Suite for Wind Quintet, in 1952, just a year before she died of cancer at the age of 52.



Ruth Crawford worked in the MacDowell studio.

Built in 1912, Pine Studio was renamed MacDowell Studio in 1943 in recognition of support from a group of Edward MacDowell’s music students. It was built as a composers’ studio and the stuccoed walls were intended to be soundproof. Like many of the studios on property, MacDowell was winterized in the 1950s when the program began welcoming…

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