|Birth Day:||March 11, 1876|
|Death Date:||Oct 24, 1971 (age 95)|
Avant-garde classical composer and painter whose work was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Symphony. He was known for his skillful use of dissonant counterpoint, a term that Charles Seeger invented as a way of describing the Ruggles oeuvre.
As per our current Database, Carl Ruggles died on Oct 24, 1971 (age 95).
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He was appointed the director of the YMCA orchestra in 1892. He published his first compositions--"How Can I Be Blythe and Glad," "At Sea," and "Maiden with Thy Mouth of Roses"--in 1899.
Carl Ruggles was born in Marion, Massachusetts on March 11, 1876. 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. 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.
Sun-Treader, his best known work, is 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.
Ruggles' wife died in 1957. They had one son, Micah. Ruggles died in Bennington, Vermont, on October 24, 1971, after a long illness.
He was elected to membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1963.
Currently, Carl Ruggles is 145 years, 6 months and 11 days old. Carl Ruggles will celebrate 146th birthday on a Friday 11th of March 2022.
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