Lou Harrison & Carl Ruggles: Orchestral Works
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCR715     Release Date: 1996-01-01

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Gerhard Samuel, Conductor; Japan Philharmonic Orchestra; Akeo Watanabe, Conductor; Polish National Radio Orchestra; William Strickland, Conductor

Even when his contemporaries were mostly gone, Lou Harrison refused to play the grand old man of American music. Still actively composing, traveling, and lecturing while in his late seventies, he never let himself be pigeonholed. Harrison was the youngest, the most eclectic, and the last surviving member of that group of composers—from Ives and Ruggles to Partch and Cage—that has been designated The American Eccentrics. Virgil Thomson perhaps said it best when he described Lou Harrison’s music as not so much original as personal.

Harrison is probably best known for his rejection of twelve- tone equal tuning in favor of “just intonation” or the “equal temperaments” and for his use of percussion instruments and ensembles (including a piano with tacks stuck into the felts) and Javanese gamelan. It is surprising therefore to discover him here as the composer of music for the twelve equal-tempered tones of the traditional European system. He came to twelve-tone music by a simple, legitimate means—he studied with Arnold Schoenberg. But his output also includes a thorough exploration of equal temperament as well the forms of western music from neoclassic to popular.

Charles Sprague Ruggles was only two years younger than Schoenberg and Ives. He was born in Marion, Massachusetts on March 11, 1876, started in music as a violinist, went to Boston to learn ship design, and ended up studying music at Harvard with John Knowles Paine while fiddling in theater orchestras to make a living. In 1907, he went to Winona, Minnesota, where he founded and directed the local orchestra. Ten years later, he returned east and settled in New York City where he became involved with the most advanced musical trends of the day at Edgard Varèse’s International Composers Guild and Henry Cowell’s Pan American Association of Composers. The guru (and sometime backer) of this group of eccentric and diverse composers was Charles Ives, whose music was just beginning to become known. It has been suggested that Ruggles’s small, single-minded output stands up against the vastness of the Ives legacy as Webern’s miniaturism does to the much larger scope of Schoenberg’s work. The comparison is perhaps valid only in a very general sense. Ruggles’s work is not at all like that of Webern or Ives; but it is close to Varèse and it anticipates composers like Roger Sessions and even Elliott Carter.


This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available for order from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).

Various Artists

Lou Harrison & Carl Ruggles: Orchestral Works

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Track Listing

Symphony on G: I. Allegro deciso
Lou Harrison
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Symphony on G: II. Largo
Lou Harrison
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Symphony on G: III. Scherzo - 1. Waltz
Lou Harrison
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Symphony on G: III. Scherzo - 2. Polka
Lou Harrison
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Symphony on G: III. Scherzo - 3. Song
Lou Harrison
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Symphony on G: III. Scherzo - 4. Rondeau
Lou Harrison
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Symphony on G: IV. (Finale) Largo - Molto allegro - vigoroso - poco presto - lento
Lou Harrison
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Organum
Carl Ruggles
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Men & Mountains: I. Men
Carl Ruggles
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Men & Mountains: II. Lilacs
Carl Ruggles
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Men & Mountains: III. Marching Mountains
Carl Ruggles
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