Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Melissa J. de Graaf

Second Committee Member

Deborah Schwartz-Kates

Third Committee Member

Paul F. Wilson


The life and career of American composer Elie Siegmeister (1909-1991) spanned most of the Twentieth century. His music provides a unique voice in classical music of the United States. With an acute awareness of social issues, Siegmeister desired for his music to communicate with audiences. His love of American folk music, blues, and jazz contributed to his distinct compositional style, first overtly with lyrical folksong-like melodies in the 1940s before becoming sublimated into a dissonant idiom by the 1960s. This thesis provides a survey of the change in Elie Siegmeister’s compositional style, specifically the years between 1940 and 1970. I provide an overview of Siegmeister’s entire compositional career in Chapter One. Chapter Two finds Siegmeister’s involvement with folk music coalescing into a lyrical and tonal style during the 1940s. With Chapter Three, I reveal pivotal events that urged Siegmeister to concentrate on form and thematic development during the 1950s. In Chapter Four I look at the 1960s as a synthesis of his past compositional styles.


Elie Siegmeister; musical nationalism; music and politics