Carl Ruggles

  • Carl (Charles Sprague) Ruggles was born in East Marion, Massachusetts, on March 11th, 1876. Trained as a violinist, he also studied theory and composition in Boston with Josef Claus and John Knowles Paine. (Plans to study composition with DvoÅ™ák in Prague were put off when a financial sponsor died).

    In 1907, Ruggles moved to Winona, Minnesota. In this small city on the banks of the Mississippi he founded, and for a decade conducted, the Winona Symphony. He also gave lessons, composed, and began painting during this time.

    Ruggles moved to New York City in 1917 and, supported by teaching and private patronage, became associated with Ives, Varèse, Cowell, Slonimsky, and Seeger. Most of his major works were begun and first performed during the years in New York (1917-37).

    After a period (1938-43) during which he taught composition at the University of Miami in Florida, Ruggles settled in a converted schoolhouse in Vermont, where he had been spending his summer since the ’20s. His musical activities during this time consisted mostly of ruthless and painstaking revision of his earlier works. (He started few new works; the only one completed is the short hymn tune Exaltation, written in 1958 as a memorial to his wife). He turned mostly to his painting : which grew increasingly abstract : during the Vermont years of his life.

    A crusty, cigar-smoking, classically independent Yankee, Ruggles was described by Henry Cowell as “irascible, lovable, honest, sturdy, original, slow-thinking, deeply emotional, self-assured, and intelligent” and by Charles Seeger as “the most delightful character in contemporary American life.”

    Ruggles’ unique music : atonal but not serial, and filled with shifting lines and rhythms : is difficult to describe. The New Grove’s Dictionary sees his music characteristically moving in “mounting declamations of heroic striving” varied with sparser, more settled textures, and finds “his aim was the clearest and boldest presentation of the features that were most important to him: line and polyphony.” Ives called it simply “strong masculine music.”

    Carl Ruggles died in Bennington, Vermont, on October 24th, 1971.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    110-40701 Angels
    For Piano
    2:40 Piano Unaccompanied
    473-40001 Angels
    Organ Transcription
    3:00 Organ Unaccompanied
    470-00020 Evocations
    Four Chants for Piano
    10:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    110-40678 Organum
    For Piano
    6:30 Piano Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    474-40001 Angels
    From Symphonoc Suite “Men and Angels”
    3:00 Trumpet Sextet
    410-41281 Organum
    For Two Pianos, Four Hands
    6:30 2 Pianos 4 Hands
    Vocal / Choral
    312-41411 Exaltation
    A Hymn Tune for Congregation and Organ
    Voice and Organ
    111-40096 Toys
    For Voice and Piano
    1:00 Voice with Piano
    14334 Evocations
    12:00 4 4 4 4 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    14335 Lilacs
    (2nd Movement: Men and Mountains) for String Orchestra
    3:00 Str.
    14336 Men and Angels
    10:00 5 4 5 4 – 6 6 3 1; Timp. Perc. 2Hp. Str.
    14337 Men and Mountains
    Version for Large Orchestra
    12:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    14338 Organum
    for Orchestra
    10:00 3 3 5 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    14339 Portals
    for String Orchestra
    7:00 Str.
    14340 Sun-Treader
    14:00 5 5 5 4 – 6 5 5 2; Timp. Perc. 2Hp. Str.
    14341 Vox Clamans (In Deserto)
    Solo Voice and Orchestra
    12:00 Mezzo-Sop.; 1 0 2 0 – 1 2 0 0; Pno. 2Vln. Vla. 2Vcl. Cb.

    for Orchestra
    Blistering with intensity, the twelve-minute piece makes use of Ruggles’ personal brand of atonality through dissonant counterpoint.

    The work makes for intriguing listening, with slithery phrases coming together into satisfying climaxes. Wind lines wither like dying flowers and coil into stabbing chords. Throughout Ruggles paints a dense canvas of sound, with instrumental colors blurring together in unusual mixtures. The orchestra gave the work a performance of surging vitality to make a strong case for a composer whose music deserves to be heard more often.
    –Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review

  • Harbison: Symphony No. 4; Ruggles: Sun-Treader; Stucky: Second Concerto for Orchestra HARBISON: SYMPHONY NO. 4; RUGGLES: SUN-TREADER; STUCKY: SECOND CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA
    Naxos (8.559836); June 1, 2018
    Performer(s): National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, David Alan Miller, conductor
    Work(s): Sun-Treader
    The Complete Music of Carl Ruggles THE COMPLETE MUSIC OF CARL RUGGLES
    Other Minds (1020/21-2); April 24, 2012
    Performer(s): Michael Tilson Thomas with the Buffalo Philharmonic
    Work(s): Evocations
    Men and Angels
    Toys for Voice and Piano
    Vox Clamans (in Deserto) for Solo Voice and Orchestra

  • Evocations
    for Orchestra
    Men and Mountains
    for Orchestra
    for String Orchestra