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Carl Ruggles Papers

Call Number: MSS 26

Scope and Contents

The Carl Ruggles Papers contain the manuscript scores and sketches of Ruggles' musical compositions, including orchestral works, piano music, and songs. The correspondence holds letters to and from various composers, artists, and writers. Ruggles' life and work are further documented by: programs and clippings; personal papers and financial records; photographs; art works by Ruggles and others; sound recordings; and music by other composers, much of it copied or arranged by Ruggles. Transcriptions, notes, and indices by John Kirkpatrick occur throughout the Papers.


  • 1894-1981 (inclusive)


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment. Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.

Conditions Governing Use

The Carl Ruggles Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Carl Ruggles Papers were purchased from Ruggles' son, Micah Ruggles, by the Music Library of Yale University in 1973.


In 10 series as follows: I. Correspondence. II. Programs. III. Art exhibit catalogs, etc. IV. Clippings. V. Personal papers, including photographs. VI. Art works by Ruggles and others. VII. Musical works by Ruggles. VIII. Works by others arranged or copied by Ruggles. IX. Sound Recordings. X. Music by others.


39 Linear Feet (56 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Music, correspondence and other papers, art works, photographs, and additional materials by and about the American composer Carl Ruggles (1876-1971)

Biographical / Historical

Charles Sprague Ruggles was born in East Marion, Massachusetts on March 11, 1876. As a boy, Ruggles took violin lessons from a local band director; after the family moved to suburban Boston in 1890, he performed in a variety of ensembles. Although he did not attend college, he studied composition and violin with several professors from Harvard and the New England Conservatory of Music, including John Knowles Paine. Ruggles' first publication, a set of songs, appeared in 1899 under the imprint of C.W. Thompson. It was at this time that Ruggles began calling himself Carl rather than Charles. In these years, he struggled to support himself as a performer, teacher, and music critic.

In 1907 Ruggles moved to Winona, Wisconsin to teach violin at the Mar d'Mar School of Music. He was soon joined by his fiancée, Charlotte Snell, a singer from Massachusetts. They married in 1908, and in 1915 they would have a son, Micah. Their jobs at Mar d'Mar lasted for only a year because of the school's financial problems, but the couple remained in Winona until 1917; Ruggles taught privately and founded the Winona Symphony Orchestra.

After meeting the writer Charles Henry Meltzer, Ruggles decided to set The Sunken Bell, Meltzer's libretto based on Gerhart Hauptmann's Die versunkene Glocke. Meltzer had connections at the Metropolitan Opera, so prospects for performance seemed good. Ruggles gave up his orchestra to concentrate on composition, and in 1917 he moved to New York to be closer to the Met. Despite his labors over a period of many years, he never completed the opera.

In New York Ruggles gave private lessons, and conducted an orchestra and chorus at the Rand School of Social Science. He also met the composers Edgard Varèse and Henry Cowell, both of whom would help promote his music. Between 1922 and 1926, Varèse's organization, the International Composers' Guild, performed five pieces by Ruggles: Angels (1922), Toys (1923), Vox clamans in deserto (1924), Men and Mountains (1924), and Portals (1926). Cowell published Men and Mountains, Portals, and Sun-Treader (1934) as part of the pioneering New Music series. With these works, Ruggles established his position as one of the leading modernist composers in America, known for his dissonant and idiosyncratic style.

Ruggles also became friendly with Charles Ives, and later with the pianist John Kirkpatrick, a leading exponent of Ives' music. As a trusted friend and talented performer, Kirkpatrick gave Ruggles detailed advice on his compositions. Researchers interested in Ruggles may wish to consult the Charles Ives Papers and the John Kirkpatrick Papers, both of which are also held at Yale.

In 1924, Ruggles moved to Arlington, Vermont, where he would remain for the rest of his life, except for 1938-43, when he taught composition at the University of Miami. Never a prolific composer, he completed only a few works in his last decades, notably Evocations, Organum, and Exaltation. Ruggles was also an artist, and in these years, he devoted much of his time to painting. He died on October 24, 1971 in Bennington, Vermont.

Register to The Carl Ruggles Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Adrienne NesnowJune 1981
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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