Composers: Old Salt

Composer Carl Ruggles has had a writer's block that has stretched out for nearly all of his 92 years. He toiled for ages on a single work. Writing with crayons on brown wrapping paper, he would trace out his python-long melodies, then weave dissonance into dissonance, then unravel the whole thing and start again. His long opera The Sunken Bell (1923) occupied his time for 13 years. And just when it was near completion, Ruggles threw the score aside in a furious fit of dissatisfaction and abandoned it forever. That helps to...