Carl Ruggles

Charles Sprague "Carl" Ruggles (March 11, 1876 – October 24, 1971) was an American composer. He wrote finely crafted pieces using "dissonant counterpoint", a term coined by Charles Seeger to describe Ruggles' music. His method of atonal counterpoint was based on a non-serial technique of avoiding repeating a pitch class until a generally fixed number such as eight pitch classes intervened. He wrote painstakingly slowly so his output is quite small.

Famous for his prickly personality, Ruggles was nonetheless friends with Henry Cowell, Edgard Varèse, Charles Ives, Thomas Hart Benton, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Charles Seeger. Benton even painted Ruggles in his portrait "The Suntreader". His students include James Tenney and Merton Brown. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas has championed Ruggles' music, recording the complete works with the Buffalo Philharmonic and occasionally performing Sun-Treader with the San Francisco Symphony. Especially later in life, Ruggles was also a prolific painter, selling hundreds of paintings during his lifetime.

Carl Ruggles
Charles Sprague Ruggles

March 11, 1876
DiedOctober 24, 1971 (aged 95)


Carl Ruggles was born in Marion, Massachusetts on March 11, 1876.[1] His mother died at an early age and he was raised mainly by his grandmother. Ruggles' father, Nathaniel, was rumored to have a gambling problem and lost most of the family's inherited wealth. Ruggles was never very close to his father and did not see him from the age of 29 onwards. He modified his given name Charles to the more Teutonic Carl at an early age, partially due to his great admiration for German composers, especially Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Though he never legally changed it, he signed all documents and works in his adult life "Carl Ruggles". He began taking violin lessons at the age of four with a local itinerant music teacher. He continued playing and gave performances on the violin, which were usually well received. He was appointed director of the YMCA orchestra in 1892. A reviewer wrote: "A musical program of entertainment was rendered in the church, each number of which received hearty applause. Master Charles Ruggles' violin selections were rendered with much feeling and delicacy. He captivated the audience by his manly bearing, and is evidently at home in the concert room."

In 1899, C.W. Thompson & Co. published Ruggles' first compositions, three songs titled How Can I Be Blythe and Glad, At Sea and Maiden with Thy Mouth of Roses. The first song is one of two surviving compositions from his early days; all others are presumed to have been destroyed by Ruggles himself. Eventually Ruggles had to work to support himself as his family's financial situation worsened. He worked a number of odd jobs and started to teach violin and music theory privately, though teaching did not provide much income or success. In 1902 he started writing music criticism for the Belmont Tribune and the Watertown Tribune. This continued until July 1903. Ruggles' reviews are characteristically brash. He did not hesitate to express his opinion, laudatory or not.

In 1906, he met Charlotte Snell, a contralto. Ruggles began a search for steady employment so that he and Charlotte could marry. This led him to Winona, Minnesota, to work for the Mar D'Mar School of Music as a violin teacher. He became active as a soloist as well, eventually directing the Winona Symphony Orchestra. Charlotte joined him as a vocal teacher at Mar d'Mar. Ruggles continued to direct the symphony after the music school closed. Charlotte then was a choir mistress at the First Baptist Church and Ruggles was hired to conduct the YMCA orchestra and glee club. They also took private students.

In 1912 Ruggles moved to New York and began writing an opera based on the German play The Sunken Bell by Gerhart Hauptmann. Due to both his sluggish composing pace and anti-German sentiment as a result of World War I, he never finished the opera, though he submitted a version to the Metropolitan Opera. He destroyed what he had written after he decided he lacked the instinct required for the stage.[1] Ruggles continued to compose, supplementing his income by giving composition lessons. For his son's fourth birthday in 1919 he wrote Toys for soprano and piano, his first composition in his atonal, contrapuntal style. He continued to live and compose in New York until 1938, when he began teaching composition at the University of Miami, where he remained until 1943. He then moved to a converted one-room school in Vermont where he spent his time revising compositions and painting. He also painted hundreds of paintings over the course of his lifetime and he was offered the opportunity to have one-man shows.

He was elected to membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1963.[1]

According to Donal Henahan, Ruggles "spoke with an earthiness that shocked many people. He smoked cigars and told dirty stories. He attacked his fellow composers, sneering at almost everyone but Ives. He refused to play the part of the genteel artist."[1] Known for his profanity, Ruggles was also anti-semitic. For example, he wrote to Henry Cowell about, "that filthy bunch of Juilliard Jews ... cheap, without dignity, and with little or no talent," especially targeting Arthur Berger.[2] His friend Lou Harrison dissociated himself from Ruggles after the 1949 performance of Angels because of the older composer's racism, noting specifically a luncheon at Pennsylvania Station in New York at which Ruggles shouted anti-black and anti-semitic slurs.[3]

Ruggles' wife died in 1957. They had one son, Micah. Ruggles died in Bennington, Vermont, on October 24, 1971, after a long illness.[1]


Ruggles' compositional style was "trial and error. He sat at the piano and moved his fingers around, listened hard to the sounds... shouting out some of the lines."[4] According to Ruggles himself, he never learned any music theory and never analyzed other composers' pieces. The majority of his early works (before Toys) were destroyed, leaving their compositional style a matter of speculation. Reviews suggest similarities to late 19th century Romanticism.

His dissonant, contrapuntal style was similar to Arnold Schoenberg's although he did not employ the same twelve tone system. He used a method similar to, and perhaps influenced by, Charles Seeger's dissonant counterpoint and generally avoided repeating a pitch class within 8 notes. He also never used sprechstimme in any of the songs he composed although he admired Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. He only completed ten pieces due to his lengthy process of composition and revision.

Sun-Treader, his best known work, was scored for a large orchestra. It was inspired by the poem "Pauline" by Robert Browning, particularly the line "Sun-treader, light and life be thine forever!". The most common intervals in the piece are minor seconds, perfect fourths and augmented fourths. One group of intervals he uses are fourths in sequence where the respective notes are either 13 or 11 semitones apart; the other is three notes which are chromatically related, though often separated by an octave. Another distinctive feature of Sun-Treader is the presence of "waves", both in dynamics and pitch. Pitches will start low, then rise up to a climax, then descend again. Within the ascent (and descent) there are small descents (and ascents) leading to a self-similar (fractal) overall structure. Sun-Treader premiered in Paris on February 25, 1932. Jean Martinon conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in its U.S. premiere in Portland, Maine, on January 24, 1966, as part of a Bowdoin College tribute marking Ruggles' 90th birthday.[5]

Ruggles's music is published by Theodore Presser Company.

List of compositions

  • Ich fühle deinen Odem (1901), song for soprano and piano (edited by John Kirkpatrick)
  • Mood (1918), for violin and piano (incomplete, edited by John Kirkpatrick)
  • Toys (1919), song for soprano and piano
  • Angels (1921), for muted brass. (Originally for six trumpets. Rescored for trumpets and trombones, 1940; transcribed for piano, 1946)
  • Men and Angels (1921), for orchestra
  • Windy Nights (1921), song for soprano and piano (edited by John Kirkpatrick)
  • Vox clamans in deserto (1923), for soprano and chamber orchestra
  • Men and Mountains (1924), for orchestra
  • Prayer (1924), song for soprano and piano (edited by John Kirkpatrick)
  • Portals (1925), for string orchestra
  • Sun-Treader (1926–31), for large orchestra – at 16 minutes, Ruggles' longest and best-known work
  • Evocations (1934–43), a set of four pieces existing in two versions, originally for solo piano (being revised till 1956) and for orchestra
  • Visions (1935–50), for piano
  • March (1943–50), for piano (edited by John Kirkpatrick)
  • Valse Lente (1945–50), for piano
  • Parvum Organum (1945–47), for piano (edited by John Kirkpatrick)
  • Organum (1946), (Two versions, for two pianos; for orchestra)
  • Exaltation (1958), his last completed work, a hymn dedicated to the memory of his wife.


  • Miller, Leta E. and Lieberman, Frederic (1998). Lou Harrison: Composing a World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511022-6
  • Slottow, Stephen P. (2008). "A Vast Simplicity: The Music of Carl Ruggles". Pendragon Press.
  • Ziffrin, Marilyn J., (1994). "Carl Ruggles: composer, painter and storyteller". Urbana, University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02042-1


  1. ^ a b c d e Henahan, Donal (October 26, 1971). "Carl Ruggles, Composer, is Dead at 95" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ Robert Morse Crunden, Body & Soul: The Making of American Modernism (2000), 42–3. ISBN 978-0-465-01484-2
  3. ^ Leta E. Miller and Frederic Lieberman. Composing a World: Lous Harrison, Musical Wayfarer (Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 42–44
  4. ^ Marilyn J. Ziffrin. Carl Ruggles: Composer, Painter, and Storyteller Music in American life. (Urbana, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 1994), p. 83. ISBN 0-252-02042-1
  5. ^ Strongin, Theodore (January 25, 1966). "'Sun-Treader' of Carl Ruggles Given First U.S. Performance" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013.

External links

1876 in music

This article is about music-related events in 1876.

1876 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1876 in the United Kingdom.

1876 in the United States

Events from the year 1876 in the United States.

American Five

The American Five is a collective name applied by some writers to the modernist American composers Charles Ives (1874–1954), John J. Becker (1886–1961), Wallingford Riegger (1885–1961), Henry Cowell (1897–1965), and Carl Ruggles (1876–1971). They were noted for their modernist and often dissonant compositions which broke away from European compositional styles to create a distinctly American style. The name was coined in imitation of the group of Russian composers called The Five.The origin of the term "The American Five" is unclear. The five composers, although many of them were known to each other, did not work, or publicise themselves, as a group. According to Don C. Gillespie, "the first use of the phrase [an 'American Five'] seems to have been made by the composer John Downey in 1962, the year following Becker's death." However, Stuart Feder credits Gillespie, saying that, "Gillespie has called them 'the American Five.'" Gilbert Chase says that Gillespie, "the leading authority on Becker," credits Becker as "'the first person to promulgate the theory of the "Ives group," or "The American Five," as it is often called today.'" Stephen Budiansky credits Becker, saying that he, "began insisting that he was one of the 'American Five' great modern composers." Peter Garland has written that

Dennis Russell Davies organized "the 1980 Cabrillo Music Festival around my [i.e. Garland's] thesis-idea of 'The American Five'", and found a supporter in Lou Harrison.The music historian Richard Taruskin notes that a group of composers including Becker, Riegger and Ruggles, and also Dane Rudhyar and Ruth Crawford Seeger, became associated with Cowell during the period when he published the magazine The New Music Quarterly (1927–1936). The magazine was financed by Ives. Taruskin (who does not use the term 'American Five' in his survey) comments that "the members [of this group] shared both a technical orientation and an expressive purpose which, like Ives's own may be jointly summed up as transcendental maximalism."

Arlington (CDP), Vermont

Arlington is a census-designated place (CDP) in the towns of Arlington and Sunderland, Bennington County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,213 at the 2010 census.In 1989, the Arlington Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district covers an area of 180 acres (73 ha) and includes 190 contributing buildings and sites in the village center. In addition to historical and architectural significance, the district is also noted for being the place where composer Carl Ruggles spent the later years of his life. The buildings in the district provide examples of Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, and Federal styles. The St. James Episcopal Church (1829–30), the second oldest Gothic Revival church in Vermont, is located in Arlington village. In the early 20th century, the village was an important industrial center with several mills and factories, many of which were washed away by flooding in 1927. The village also has unusual sections of marble sidewalks, laid using stone from nearby quarries.

Cindy Cox

Cindy Cox (born 1961) is an American composer and performer, and Professor of Music.

She holds a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from Texas Christian University, and her Masters and Doctorate in 1992 from Indiana University Bloomington in composition, where she studied with Harvey Sollberger, Donald Erb, Eugene O’Brien, and John Eaton. She has also studied with John Harbison at the Tanglewood Music Center, and Bernard Rands and Jacob Druckman at the Aspen Music Festival. As a pianist, she studied with the Mozart and Schubert specialist Lili Kraus.

As of 2011, Cox is a Professor at the University of California at Berkeley.Her orchestrations have been described as "music that demonstrates an extremely refined and imaginative sense of instrumental color and texture," "well-wrought," and "not easily classifiable."

and as having "prismatic colors" that suggest "a hybrid of Olivier Messiaen and Carl Ruggles — an odd couple indeed." Tim Page has described her Into the Wild as "a dark, fertile musical fantasy with some haunting and desolate chords."

Bay Area composer Cindy Cox’s work has been called “a delight to listen to” and “buoyant, puckish, rhythmically alive and crisply engaging” by San Francisco Chronicle critic Joshua Kosman. The University of California, Berkeley professor’s music is noted for its special tunings, harmonies, and textural colorations. She has received numerous awards, commissions, and the prestigious appointment of a Fellow at both the Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festivals. Her work has been performed throughout Europe, as well as Carnegie Hall, the National Gallery, the Kennedy Center, and by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

She is married to the poet John Campion.

Gilbert Chase

Gilbert Chase (4 September 1906, Havana, Cuba – 22 February 1992, Chapel Hill, North Carolina) was an American music historian, critic and author, and a "seminal figure in the field of musicology and ethnomusicology.

His America's Music, from the Pilgrims to the Present was the first major work to examine the music of the entire United States and argue that folk traditions were more culturally significant than music for the concert hall. Chase's analysis of a diverse American musical identity has remained the dominant view among the academic establishment. He also "was the first to treat the music of Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles as important additions to the 20th-century repertory". Along with Robert Stevenson, he was among the first American scholars to study the music of the Americas, and his The Music of Spain and A Guide to the Music of Latin America were major works in the study of Spanish and Latin American music. The Music of Spain remains a seminal and much-used text.Chase served as the cultural attaché in Lima (1950–53), Buenos Aires (1953–55) and Brussels (1960–63).

Chase taught at Tulane University, University of Texas, and the University of Oklahoma. After retiring in 1979, he moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and died there, of pneumonia, in 1992.

James Tenney

James Tenney (August 10, 1934 – August 24, 2006) was an American composer and music theorist. He made significant early musical contributions to plunderphonics, sound synthesis, algorithmic composition, process music, spectral music, microtonal music, and tuning systems including extended just intonation. His theoretical writings variously concern musical form, texture, timbre, consonance and dissonance, and harmonic perception.

John Kirkpatrick (pianist)

John Kirkpatrick (18 March 1905 – 8 November 1991) was an American classical pianist and music scholar, best known for championing the works of Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Carl Ruggles, and Roy Harris. He gave the first complete public performance of Ives's Concord Sonata in 1939, which became a turning point in the composer's public recognition. At the time of his death Kirkpatrick was a professor emeritus at Yale University, where he had also been the curator of the Charles Ives archives.

Klaw Theatre

The Klaw Theatre was a Broadway theatre located at 251–257 West 45th Street (now a part of George Abbott Way) in midtown-Manhattan. Built in 1921 for producer Marcus Klaw, Eugene De Rosa was the architect. Rachel Crothers' Nice People was the opening production in 1921 with Tallulah Bankhead and Katharine Cornell in her debut Broadway role albeit a small one.

As the Klaw Theatre and later the Avon few productions had a very long run. Exceptions were the comedy Meet the Wife running for 232 performances in 1923 with Humphrey Bogart as juvenile lead Gregory Brown and playwright Hatcher Hughes's melodrama Hell-Bent Fer Heaven running for 122 performances in 1924 and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1924. Arnold Schoenberg's musical composition Pierrot Lunaire was performed for the first time in the western hemisphere at the Klaw on February 4, 1923 with George Gershwin and

Carl Ruggles in attendance. On November 28, 1926 Martha Graham and others in her company gave a dance recital at the Klaw, they were accompanied by pianist Louis Horst. Maxwell Anderson's Gypsy, directed by George Cukor, had a short run of 64 performances from January 14, 1929 to March 1929 but was included in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays of 1928 - 1929.

It was renamed the Avon Theatre in 1929. Strictly Dishonorable, written by Preston Sturges, had the longest run at the Avon of 557 performances from September, 1929 to January, 1931. George Bernard Shaw, Noël Coward and Oscar Wilde had their works staged at both the Klaw and Avon.

It was leased to CBS in 1934 and renamed the CBS Radio Playhouse No. 2. CBS later bought it. In 1953 CBS sold it, the new owners razed it and built a parking deck on the site which abuts the Imperial Theatre.

List of atonal compositions

This is a list of atonal musical compositions. Pieces are listed by composer.

Merton Brown

Merton Brown (May 5, 1913, Berlin, Vermont – February 20, 2001, Charlestown, Massachusetts) was a composer who studied with Wallingford Riegger and Carl Ruggles. He often collaborated with choreographers including former Martha Graham dancer Matti Haim, José Limón, and Thomas Hewitt.

Virgil Thomson describes him as a "neo-contrapuntalist" influenced by Carl Ruggles and involved with, "rounded [ melodic ] material," but not so much with the, "personalized sentiment," involved in neoromanticism.

Richard Dufallo

Richard John Dufallo (30 January 1933 in Whiting, Indiana – 16 June 2000 in Denton, Texas) was an American clarinetist, author, and conductor with a broad repertory. He is most known for his interpretations of contemporary music. During the 1970s, he directed contemporary music series at both Juilliard and the Aspen Music Festival, where he succeeded Darius Milhaud as artistic director of the Conference on Contemporary Music. He was influential at getting American works accepted in Europe, and gave the first European performances of works by Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Jacob Druckman, and Elliott Carter as well as younger composers like Robert Beaser. Dufallo, as conductor, also premiered numerous works by European composers, including Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Krzystof Penderecki. He was a former assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and worked closely with Leonard Bernstein from 1965 to 1975. He also served as associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic.

Ruggles (surname)

Ruggles is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Carl Ruggles (1876–1971), American composer

Charles H. Ruggles (1789–1865), New York Chief Judge

Charles Ruggles (1886-1970), character actor, older brother of director/producer, Wesley Ruggles

Clive Ruggles (born 1952) British Astronomer

Daniel Ruggles (1810–1897) Confederate general

David Ruggles (1810–1849), abolitionist

Nathaniel Ruggles (1761–1819), U.S. Representative from Massachusetts

Samuel B. Ruggles (1800–1881), American lawyer and founder of Gramercy Park in New York City

Steven Ruggles (born 1955), American historical demographer

Timothy Ruggles (1711–1795), American military leader, jurist and politician

Tom Ruggles (born 1992), Australian rules footballer for Geelong Cats

Wesley Ruggles (1889-1972), film director/producer, younger brother of character actor, Charles Ruggles.

William Ruggles (1797–1877), professor at George Washington University

String orchestra

A string orchestra is an orchestra consisting solely of a string section made up of the bowed strings used in Western Classical music. The instruments of such an orchestra are most often the following: the violin, which is divided into first and second violin players (each usually playing different parts), the viola, the cello, and usually, but not always, the double bass.

String orchestras can be of chamber orchestra size ranging from between 12 (4 first violins, 3 second violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and 1 bass = 12) and 21 musicians (6 first violins, 5 second violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos and 2 double basses= 21) sometimes performing without a conductor. It could also consist of the entire string section of a large symphony orchestra which could have 60 musicians (16 first violins, 14 second violins, 12 violas, 10 cellos and 8 double basses = 60; Gurre-Lieder calls for 84:

The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church

The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church is a live album by American composer, bandleader and keyboardist Carla Bley recorded in Perugia, Italy as part of the Umbria Jazz Festival and released on the Watt/ECM label in 1996.

The Sunken Bell (disambiguation)

The Sunken Bell is an 1896 poetic play in blank verse by Gerhart Hauptmann.

The Sunken Bell may also refer to:

La campana sommersa or The Sunken Bell, a 1927 opera by Ottorino Respighi

Die versunkene Glocke (opera) or The Sunken Bell, an 1896 opera by Heinrich Zöllner

The Sunken Bell, an unfinished opera by Carl Ruggles

The Sunken Bell or Potonuvsky Kolokol, a 1900 opera by Alexei Davidov

Timeline of musical events

Contents: Ancient music – Early history – 1500s – 1510s – 1520s – 1530s – 1540s – 1550s – 1560s – 1570s – 1580s – 1590s – 1600s – 1610s – 1620s – 1630s – 1640s – 1650s – 1660s – 1670s – 1680s – 1690s – 1700s – 1710s – 1720s – 1730s – 1740s – 1750s – 1760s – 1770s – 1780s – 1790s – 1800s – 1810s – 1820s – 1830s – 1840s – 1850s – 1860s – 1870s – 1880s – 1890s – 1900s – 1910s – 1920s – 1930s – 1940s – 1950s – 1960s – 1970s – 1980s – 1990s – 2000s – 2010sThis page indexes the individual year in music pages.

William Strickland (conductor)

William Remsen Strickland (January 25, 1914 – November 17, 1991) was an American conductor and organist.

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