Tui St. George Tucker

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Tui St. George Tucker
Tui St.George Tucker1.jpg
Photo of Tucker taken at Camp Catawba, North Carolina (c. 1967)
Born25 November 1924 (1924-11-25)
Died21 April 2004 (2004-04-22) (aged 79)
Alma materOccidental College (1941-44)
Partner(s)Vera Lachmann (1947-85)
Tui St. George Tucker signature.png

Tui St. George Tucker[n 1] (born Lorraine St. George Tucker; November 25, 1924 – April 21, 2004) was an American modernist composer, conductor, recorder virtuoso and creator of unique musical instruments. Her compositions often feature microtonality and are strongly influenced by jazz, Buddhism, the music of Medieval Europe, and more. She would develop special recorders with extra holes, in addition to unique fingerings for modern recorders to allow for the playing of quarter tones, typically in 24-tone equal temperament.

Her avant-garde disposition and unique compositional language made her a staple in the 1940s New York scene, being encouraged by musicians such as John Cage and Larry Polansky. After relocating to North Carolina in 1947, however, she fell into obscurity – but continued to write a large number of works for various ensembles. The exact size of her ouevre is debated, but is believed to be around a hundred works in length, a few being unfinished.

Early life[edit]


Tucker was born in Fullerton, California, the daughter of an English father and a mother from New Zealand. Her family often referred to her as "Tui"; named for the eponymous bird native to New Zealand, where her mother was born. She attended Eagle Rock High School in northeast Los Angeles, California, graduating in 1941. She then attended Occidental College in Los Angeles from 1941 to 1944.[1]


Tucker relocated to central New York City in 1946, working as a composer, conductor, and recorder player, and spending most of her professional life in Greenwich Village. She had become a member of a circle of avant-garde composers living in the city, including John Cage, Lou Harrison, Virgil Thomson, and others. Her Indian Summer: Three Microtonal Antiphons on Psalm Texts written during this era, for two baritones and chamber ensemble, was among the first of her pieces to explore the use of quarter tones. Tucker met the German-American poet and scholar Vera Lachmann (1904-1985) in 1946, who she would maintain a lifelong relationship with.

From 1947 onward, she spent her summers at Camp Catawba, located near the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Boone side of Blowing Rock, North Carolina.[2] Lachmann founded the camp two years prior, and Tucker would serve as the camp's music director at Lachmann's behest. Under her guidance, the young campers would perform music ranging from medieval plainsong and organum to works by contemporary American composers. Pianist Grete Sultan also worked there during several summers.[3]

Many of her best known compositions date from this era include the Peyote Sonata (1956), which experiments with polyrhythms and experimental subdivisions, including a phrase in 15:16; a chamber piece dedicated to Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, and the cantata Drum Taps (1973) in eight movements, set to a libretto by Walt Whitman.

Personal life[edit]

In 1985, Tui inherited the camp grounds of Catawba from Lachmann after she died the same year. In accordance with Lachmann's will, Tucker sold the grounds to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, while retaining a life estate and maintaining a residence on the grounds from 1985 until her death in 2004, continuing to conduct and compose for local instrumental ensembles.[4][5]


Her works have been performed by people and ensembles including the Kohon Quartet, pianists Grete Sultan and Loretta Goldberg, and recorder player Pete Rose. Her Little Pieces for Quartertone Piano, written in the style of microtonal contemporary Ivan Wyschnegradsky, is now considered part of the instrument's repertoire.


List of selected works[edit]

Sorted chronologically:

  • Trio for Brass (1940) for two B flat trumpets and F horn
  • Duo Sonata (1946) for two soprano recorders
  • Partita (1946) for viola solo
  • First Piano Sonata (1947; rev. 1979) for piano solo
  • The Voice of the Lord (1949) for boy soprano and medieval lute
  • Peyote Sonata (1956) for piano solo
  • Sonata for Solo Recorder (The Bullfinch) (1960) for soprano recorder
  • Passacaglia for White Sunday (1964) for piano solo
  • Second Sonata for Solo Recorder (The Hypertonic) (1967) for soprano recorder
  • Drum Taps (1973), cantata for men's voices and chamber orchestra
  • Quartertone Carol (1980) for female voice and recorder trio
  • Quartertone Lullaby (1981) for recorder trio
  • Second Quartertone Lullaby (1982) for recorder trio
  • Catawba (1984) for baritone and piano
  • Adoramus Te (1985) for mixed chorus and piano
  • Ave Verum Corpus (1988) for SATB choir
  • All Colors of Light (1990) for chorus and piano
  • Amoroso 2 (1990) for tenor recorder (or flute)
  • The Lydian Sonata (1995) for violin and piano
  • Laudate (1996) for SATB choir
  • But Parting is Return (1999) for SATB choir


  • Indian Summer: Three Microtonal Antiphons on Psalm Texts. LP. Greenville, Maine: Opus One, [1984?].
  • String Quartet No. 1. LP. Greenville, Maine: Opus One, [1986?].
  • Herzliebster Jesu. CD. Harriman, New York: Spectrum, 1988. (Title of disc: Buxtehude, Moondog & Co., performed by Paul Jordan, Schuke organ.)
  • Piano Sonata No, 2, "The Peyote". CD. Greenville, Maine: Opus One, [1991?]. (Title of disc: Soundbridge, performed by pianist Loretta Goldberg.)
  • The Music of Tui St. George Tucker (1998). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Centaur.



  1. ^ Some sources identify her as Tui Saint George Tucker.


  1. ^ Nelson-King, Peter (2015). "A pair of viola ganders at Tui St. George Tucker". Forgotten Leaves. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  2. ^ Green, Laura Gayle (2022). "Lesser-Known Composer of the Month: Brief Sketches: Charlie Poole, Tui St. George Tucker". Florida State University's College of Music. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  3. ^ Miller, Charles (2016). "The Story of Camp Catawba". Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  4. ^ Leedy and Reinhard (1994), p. 494.
  5. ^ Elliston, John (2021). "Renaissance Summers: At Camp Catawba, Boys Found an Artistic Escape From a World in Turmoil". Western North Carolina Magazine. Retrieved 12 July 2022.


  • Leedy, Douglas; Reinhard, Johnny (1994). "Tucker, Tui St George". The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. W.W. Norton: 494.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bredow, Moritz von. 2012. Rebellische Pianistin. Das Leben der Grete Sultan zwischen Berlin und New York. Mainz: Schott Music. ISBN 978-3-7957-0800-9 (This book contains many aspects of the lives and the art of Tui St George Tucker, Vera Lachmann and Grete Sultan).

External links[edit]