The Ecstasy of Carl Ruggles

Carol J. Oja

in Making Music Modern

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780195058499
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865031 | DOI:
The Ecstasy of Carl Ruggles

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Dane Rudhyar's closest bond during the early 1920s was with Carl Ruggles and Henry Cowell. Together, the three earnestly encouraged one another in their pursuit of a distinctive modernist idiom. Late in the decade, the young Ruth Crawford also entered their realm. Though never gaining full status in this nuclear brotherhood, she ended up being inspired most directly by Rudhyar. Among this select group of cohorts, Ruggles was the one most championed by Rudhyar himself. A New Englander by birth, Ruggles (1876-1971) gained a reputation as a salty eccentric, living in a converted Vermont schoolhouse and turning up regularly in New York City for performances of his music. Ruggles's music was consistently knotty and non-tonal, posing stiff challenges for listeners. It was precisely to confront this challenge that Rudhyar stepped in. As critic and advocate, Rudhyar tried to enrich the listening experience by applying his spiritual philosophy of dissonance to Ruggles's music. Ruggles's fusion of spirituality and dissonance aimed high on the whole, not low, and Rudhyar's ideas about tone and space opened up new perceptual possibilities in approaching his music.

Keywords: Carl Ruggles; Dane Rudhyar; modernist music; spirituality; dissonance; tone; space; composers; New York City; Charles Seegel

Chapter.  5332 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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