Archive for the ‘Charles Seeger’ Category

Charles Seeger

May 16, 2013



Pete’s father Charles Seeger and his wife composer Ruth Crawford Seeger were both musicologists, and she wrote musical notations for many of the songs that the Lomaxes published. Charles Seeger explains how he met Alan Lomax and his father John was when he and the composer Henry Cowell were asked by MacMillan Publishers “to advise them on a manuscript that had come in from a man named Lomax….Well they came in,…John and Alan, and the manuscript was there, and Alan was just like ready to punch either Henry or me in the face. ‘These God damned expert musicians, they don’t know anything about folk music. They don’t know anything about music, anyway!’

“Well, Henry and I opened the things and said, ‘My God, these are marvelous songs.’ This was about 1933 or ’34. ‘These are perfectly marvelous songs, and the notations are terrible. There’s practically nothing there that doesn’t have mistakes, wrong clefs, wrong accidentals, and everything else.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to have these notations made over, and the book is going to be very successful.’ Well, it was American Ballads and Folk Songs, and it was published. Alan softened up a little bit towards the end, and we presently became very good friends. In fact he became a member of the family.”

Charles Seeger continued, “So when Peter became interested in playing the banjo and singing songs that were accompanied by the banjo, I sent him to study the recordings in the Library of Congress, which is about the best school that there is. In fact, it’s the only ‘school’ that I know of. You just go in there and listen to recordings and after you get sufficiently saturated with them, you know something.”