Seeger still regards her mother and her music as terrain not fully explored, even by herself. “When her biographers wanted to know about Ruth Crawford Seeger the Composer, I tried to remember her in that capacity,” she has said. “The picture is incomplete for I only know her folk music persona, her classical piano playing, her attempts to cook. When I listen to her innovative compositions, many of which I do not understand and some of which make me feel physically uncomfortable, I am outraged that I never heard any of them except Rissolty Rossolty until I was in my mid-thirties … Dio is a book that was never fully opened.”
Ruth Crawford Seeger was a modernist — in fact a member of a group of American composers known as “the ultramodernists.” Born in Ohio in 1901, she was six years old when she took up the piano, and later enrolled at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. There, she began to explore the world of composition, gaining her Bachelors, then a Masters, and relishing the creative and intellectual stimulation of the city — Rachmaninoff recitals, piano lessons with Djane Lavoie Herz, discussions of theosophy, Alexander Scriabin, socialising with the Chicago poet Carl Sandburg, whose poetry she would later set to music.