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George Crumb

George Crumb (born October 24, 1929) is an American composer of modern and avant-garde music.[1] He is noted as an explorer of unusual timbres and extended technique. Examples include spoken flute (one speaks while blowing into the instrument) and glass marbles poured onto an open piano.

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Crumb's music

After initially being influenced by Anton Webern, Crumb became interested in exploring unusual timbres. He often asks for instruments to be played in unusual ways and several of his pieces are written for electrically amplified instruments.

Crumb's compositions often incorporate theater as an element of performance. In several pieces he asks players to leave and enter the stage during the piece. He has also used unusual layouts of musical notation in a number of his scores. In several pieces, the music is symbolically laid out in a circular or spiral fashion.

Several of Crumb's works, including the four books of madrigals he wrote in the late 1960s and Ancient Voices of Children, a song cycle of 1970 for two singers and small instrumental ensemble (which includes a toy piano), are settings of texts by Federico García Lorca. Many of his vocal works were written for the virtuoso mezzo-soprano singer Jan DeGaetani.

Black Angels (1970) is another piece which displays Crumb's interest in exploring a wide range of timbres. The piece is written for electric string quartet (Crumb notes that amplified acoustic instruments are acceptable, but electric instruments are preferred),[citation needed] and its players are required to play various percussion instruments and to bow small goblets as well as to play their instruments in both conventional and unconventional ways. It is one of Crumb's best known pieces, and has been recorded by the Kronos Quartet.

Another of Crumb's best known works are the four books of Makrokosmos.[2] The first two books (1972, 1973), for solo piano, make extensive use of string piano techniques; the third, known as Music for a Summer Evening (1974), is for two pianos and percussion; the fourth, Celestial Mechanics (1979), was written for piano four-hands. The title Makrokosmos alludes to Mikrokosmos, the six books of piano pieces by Béla Bartók; like Bartók's work, Makrokosmos is a series of short character pieces. Apart from Bartók, Claude Debussy is another composer Crumb acknowledged as an influence here, although the works call for techniques far from what either of those composers ever employed. The piano is both amplified and prepared by the placing of objects on and between the strings (Crumb has referred to string and prepared piano techniques collectively as "extended piano"). On several occasions the pianist is required to sing or shout certain words as well as playing. Makrokosmos was premiered by David Burge, who later recorded the work.

Crumb's works are published by the C. F. Peters Corporation.




  • Gethsemane (1947), for small orchestra
  • Diptych (1955)
  • Variazioni (1959), for large orchestra
  • Echoes of Time and the River (Echoes II) (1967)
  • A Haunted Landscape (1984)

Vocal Choral Orchestral

  • Star-Child (1977, revised 1979), for soprano, antiphonal children's voices, male speaking choir, bell ringers, and large orchestra


  • Two Duos (1944?), for flute and clarinet
  • Four Pieces (1945), for violin and piano
  • Violin Sonata (1949)
  • String Trio (1952)
  • Three Pastoral Pieces (1952), for oboe and piano
  • Viola Sonata (1953)
  • String Quartet (1954)
  • Sonata for Solo Cello (1955)
  • Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) (1964), for violin and piano
  • Eleven Echoes of Autumn (Echoes I) (1966), for violin, alto flute, clarinet, and piano
  • Black Angels (Images I) (1970), for electric string quartet
  • Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) (1971), for electric flute, electric cello, and amplified piano
  • Music for a Summer Evening (Makrokosmos III) (1974), for two amplified pianos and percussion (two players).
  • Dream Sequence (Images II) (1976), for violin, cello, piano, percussion (one player), and off-stage glass harmonica (two players)
  • String Trio (1982)
  • Pastoral Drone (1982), for organ
  • An Idyll for the Misbegotten (Images III) (1986), for amplified flute and percussion (three players).
  • Easter Dawning (1991), for carillon
  • Quest (1994), for guitar, soprano saxophone, harp, double bass, and percussion (two players)
  • Mundus Canis (A Dog's World) (1998), for guitar and percussion


  • Piano Sonata (1945)
  • Prelude and Toccata (1951)
  • Five Pieces (1962)
  • Makrokosmos, Volume I (1972), for amplified piano
  • Makrokosmos, Volume II (1973), for amplified piano
  • Celestial Mechanics (Makrokosmos IV) (1979), for amplified piano (four hands)
  • A Little Suite for Christmas, A.D. 1979 (1980)
  • Gnomic Variations (1981)
  • Processional (1983)
  • Zeitgeist (Tableaux Vivants) (1988), for two amplified pianos
  • Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (A Little Midnight Music) (2002)
  • Otherworldly Resonances (2003), for two pianos


  • Four Songs (1945?), for voice, clarinet and piano
  • Seven Songs (1946), for voice and piano
  • Three Early Songs (1947), for voice and piano
  • A Cycle of Greek Lyrics (1950?), for voice and piano
  • Night Music I (1963, revised 1976), for soprano, piano/celeste, and two percussionists
  • Madrigals, Book I (1965), for soprano, vibraphone, and double bass
  • Madrigals, Book II (1965), for soprano, flute/alto flute/piccolo, and percussion
  • Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death (1968), for baritone, electric guitar, electric double bass, amplified piano/electric harpsichord, and two percussionists
  • Night of the Four Moons (1969), for alto, alto flute/piccolo, banjo, electric cello, and percussion
  • Madrigals, Book III (1969), for soprano, harp, and percussion
  • Madrigals, Book IV (1969), for soprano, flute/alto flute/piccolo, harp, double bass, and percussion
  • Ancient Voices of Children (1970), for mezzo-soprano, boy soprano, oboe, mandolin, harp, amplified piano (and toy piano), and percussion (three players)
  • Lux Aeterna (1971) for soprano, bass flute/soprano recorder, sitar, and percussion (two players)
  • Apparition (1979), for soprano and amplified piano
  • The Sleeper (1984), for soprano and piano
  • Federico's Little Songs for Children (1986), for soprano, flute/piccolo/alto flute/bass flute, and harp
  • American Songbook I: Unto the Hills (2001), for soprano, percussion quartet and piano
  • American Songbook II: A Journey Beyond Time (2003), for soprano, percussion quartet and piano
  • American Songbook III: River of Life (2003), for soprano, percussion quartet and piano
  • American Songbook IV: Winds of Destiny (2004), for soprano, percussion quartet and piano
  • American Songbook V: Voices from a Forgotten World (2007), for soprano, baritone, percussion quartet and piano
  • American Songbook VI: Voices from the Morning of the Earth (2008), for soprano, baritone, percussion quartet and piano


  • Alleluja (1948), for unaccompanied chorus


  • George Crumb: The Voice of the Whale (1976). Directed and produced by Robert Mugge. Interviewed by Richard Wernick. New York, New York: Rhapsody Films (released 1988).


  1. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
  2. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
  • Bass, Richard. 1991. "Sets, Scales and Symmetrics: The Pitch-Structural Basis of George Crumb’s Makrokosmos I & II". Music Theory Spectrum 13, no. 1:1–20.
  • Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
  • Steinitz, Richard. 2001. "Crumb, George (Henry)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links


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