Cover image for Understanding Charles Seeger, pioneer in American musicology
Understanding Charles Seeger, pioneer in American musicology
Yung, Bell.
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 192 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Introduction / Bell Yung and Helen Rees -- The dynamics of dissonance in Seeger's treatise and Crawford's Quartet / Taylor Greer -- The American composer in the 1930s : the social thought of Seeger and Chávez / Leonora Saavedra -- Form, content, and value: Seeger and criticism to 1940 / Robert R. Grimes -- "Temporary bypaths"? : Seeger and folk music research / Helen Rees -- Ruth Crawford, Charles Seeger, and The music of American folk songs / Judith Tick -- Seeger's unitary field theory reconsidered / Lawrence M. Zbikowski -- Anthropology and musicology : Seeger's writings from 1933 to 1953 / Nimrod Baranovitch -- From modern physics to modern musicology : Seeger and beyond / Bell Yung.
Format :


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ML423.S498 U53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A giant in the development of American musicology, Charles Seeger was a scholar-musician active in practically all areas of musical endeavor: performance, composition, theory, criticism, pedagogy, and musicology. This wide-ranging collection provides a historical context for Seeger's ideas by investigating his writings on music, musical research, and the responsibility of the musician and musicologist to society.

A passionate teacher who began at the University of California at Berkeley in 1912 and was active until his death at the age of ninety-two, Seeger was vitally interested in bridging the gap between academia and the world outside the ivory tower. He was also concerned with nurturing uniquely American musical forms and played a leadership role in the Composers Collective in New York in the 1930s.

A philosopher, builder, and social activist, Seeger was integral to the founding of such scholarly organizations as the American Musicological Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology. Indeed, his ideas about music and musicology, incorporating perspectives as diverse as physics, philosophy, and anthropology, set the stage for the rise of modern ethnomusicology.

Understanding Charles Seeger, Pioneer in American Musicology traces Seeger's advocacy of exploring alternatives to nineteenth-century European romantic musical style and his involvement with folk music research, including his initial dismissal and later acceptance of folk music as a positive social force. Contributors reassess the intellectual relationship between Seeger and his second wife, Ruth Crawford, and explore such issues as Seeger's concern with the role of music and the composer in a class society, his freeadaptation of Marxist notions of class and social change, and his eclectic philosophy and theories about music, its operation, and its place in society.

By presenting new perspectives on Seeger's life and work, focusing parti

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Seven of the eight essays in this volume were presented at meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the book as a whole represents precisely the kind of sessions one always hopes to find at national meetings but too rarely does. Like Seeger himself, the essays are wonderfully various, addressing Seeger's thinking on dissonance; his social thought and its relation to music in comparison with the ideas of Cesar Chavez; his ideas about the role(s) of music criticism in its broadest sense; his folk music research; his work with Ruth Crawford Seeger on folk songs; his Unitary Field Theory; the connections in his work between musicology and anthropology; and the connections between his work and physics. The contributors treat Seeger and his work with enormous respect, but the essays in no way constitute hagiography. In his foreword, Anthony Seeger points out that Charles Seeger wanted argument and hard thinking; all the contributors to this volume oblige. The book belongs on the same shelf as Seeger's own writings and biographies by Ann Pescatello (Charles Seeger: A Life in American Music, CH, Mar'93) and Judith Tick (Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer's Search for American Music, CH, Apr'98). Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. McCalla; Bowdoin College