Ruth Crawford Seeger Conference


Conference Schedule
Click here to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat

Conference Schedule (text only format)

We grieve for those people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center, and we thank those who have helped the rescue efforts.

In the wake of this terrible event, many arts events have been cancelled throughout the city. The Institute's festival in honor of Ruth Crawford Seeger will, however, take place as scheduled. We look forward to celebrating the Seegers and everything they stand for.

Please note: The Saturday, October 27, concert with Pete, Peggy, and Mike Seeger is sold out

The centenary of Ruth Crawford Seeger is a timely occasion to consider the life, music, and cultural significance of an extraordinary composer and folk music activist. The first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in music, Crawford Seeger developed a unique modernist musical style in the 1920s and early 1930s. Her best-known work, the String Quartet 1931, stands as a striking example of modernist musical experimentation and establishes her as a brilliant and inventive composer. She was a vital participant in the “ultra-modern” school of composition in New York City, a group of composers that included Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell, and Dane Rudhyar. Through her transcriptions and arrangements of traditional American music, and her association with the Lomaxes and her stepson Pete, Crawford Seeger emerged as a leader in the folk song revival of the 1930s and 1940s.

Ruth Crawford Seeger: Modernity, Tradition, and the Making of American Music will focus on Crawford Seeger’s influence on modernist composition and the Seeger family’s far-reaching impact on the urban folk revival. During Crawford Seeger’s lifetime, her music was enthusiastically endorsed by the composers Henry Cowell and Edgard Varèse, musicologist Charles Seeger (who was her composition teacher before he became her husband), and the music patron Blanche Walton. Shortly after her marriage to Seeger in 1932 and the birth of her first child, Michael, in 1933, she stopped composing and turned instead to the task of teaching music to children and of collecting, transcribing, arranging, and publishing folk songs, projects she would continue until her untimely death from cancer at the age of fifty-two.

In the received history of early twentieth-century music, European composers tend to be represented as having made more significant contributions than their American counterparts. An even more entrenched notion is that twentieth-century art music was an exclusively male preserve. The musical legacy of Crawford Seeger, Amy Beach, Marion Bauer, Margaret Bonds, Elisabeth Lutyens, Miriam Gideon, and numerous other women challenges this myth. The conference’s concentration on Crawford Seeger’s life, music, and cultural activism will help to dispel lingering notions about the absence of talented and influential female musical figures in this century.

Our focus on Crawford Seeger’s prescient contributions to American modernism and on her advocacy of traditional music presents a provocative view of twentieth-century music. The conference will help to break down the notion that modern and traditional music are diametrically opposed. To straddle both of these worlds was by no means unique, but the Seegers’ lasting and unusual musical legacy—one that embraces Elliott Carter and Pete Seeger, serialism and socialism—deserves recognition and further study. By presenting an interdisciplinary perspective on a pathbreaking figure who managed to bridge the modern and the traditional, the conference will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of how musical movements such as ultra-modernism and the urban folk revival helped to shape twentieth-century culture.

There is no need to register for the conference. The events during the day are free, and tickets may be purchased for the evening concerts.

Ellie M. Hisama


Conference Schedule

This conference is supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. The Council is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the presence of the humanities in the state's public life, and to guaranteeing the future of the humanities among young people. It works to achieve these goals through grants, public events, and educational programs, all designed to bring insights from the humanities to the people of New York. The Council is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as by contributions from New York State, New York City, and private citizens.

Additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Edward T. Cone Foundation, Office of the Provost at Brooklyn College, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Baisley Powell Elebash Endowment, the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities at Brooklyn College, Lucille Field Goodman, and Patsy Rogers.

Information for Accommodations in New York City

Click here for directions to ISAM at Brooklyn College.

ISAM home       Who we are       Contact us       ISAM Conferences and Lectures      
Fall 2001 Newsletter: Ruth Crawford Seeger Festival Booklet

Monographs       ISAM Web Documents       Newsletters       Links