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Mirchandani, Sharon

Ruth Crawford Seeger's Five Songs, Suite No. 2, and Three Chants: Representations of America and Explorations of Spirituality

Ph.D. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1997

This dissertation examines Ruth Crawford Seeger's lifelong artistic search to express spirituality through music as reflected in her Five Songs, Suite No. 2 for Four Strings and Piano, and Three Chants for Women's Chorus. These three works exemplify distinctive points in her spiritual and stylistic development. The Five Songs are a manifestation of Crawford's interests in American Transcendentalism and combine chromatic polyphony with shifting tonal centers. The Suite No. 2 represents Crawford's sense of abstract spirituality and generates, in a highly chromatic language, its own form with some use of ostinatos and imitation; a narrative interpretation of the Suite is a principal component of this analysis. The Three Chants for Women's Chorus, Crawford's distinctive Western-art rendition of Hindu chanting, provides a more explicit spiritual image.

The analytical treatment of Crawford's music consists of an eclectic, multifaceted approach in which a critical interpretation exploring the aesthetic meaning of the selected compositions is combined with aspects of formal analysis derived from the writings of Joseph Straus, George Perle, Allen Forte, Jan LaRue, and Heinrich Schenker. The critique includes commentary on various writings by and about Crawford, with an emphasis on those concerning her spirituality. The effect of Crawford's gender on her aesthetics, works, and career is explored.