George Crumb

Composers

Biography

Born: October 24, 1929; Charleston, WV  
George Crumb was one of the most distinctive compositional voices to emerge in the second half of the twentieth century. A charter member of the "New Virtuosity" movement, Crumb developed an expansive musical palette noted for its emphasis on extended instrumental and vocal techniques, its rich and sophisticated musical allusions, an evocative theatricality, and a poet's sense of sonorous detail.

Crumb was born in West Virginia in 1929
Read more into a musical family, and studied at various schools in the Midwest as well as at the Berlin Hochschule as a Fulbright Scholar. He eventually joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where he composed and taught for three decades. His highly intuitive approach to composition, with its emphasis on texture, timbre, and line, bore substantial fruit during the 1960s, including the Madrigals (1966-1969), Eleven Echoes of Autumn (1965), and, inspired by the Apollo 11 lunar landing, Night of the Four Moons (1969). Echoes of Time and the River, one of Crumb's rare orchestral works, earned the composer the Pulitzer Prize.

Crumb's style remained remarkably consistent during the subsequent decades. Black Angels (1970) used a dizzying arsenal of extended techniques to evoke a surreal soundscape of the Vietnam War. Star Child (1977) applied Crumb's acute ear for nuance to an impressive vocal/orchestral ensemble. Ancient Voices of Children (1970), with its unimaginable timbral variety and taxingly dramatic vocal lines, became a near-instant classic of the postwar period. It also demonstrated the resonance between his compositional style and the writing style of Garcia Lorca, whose poems would repeatedly serve as the inspiration for and/or words to a number of Crumb's pieces.

Crumb's works became known also for their almost choreographic visual elegance in performance -- and, in fact, numerous dance companies have composed dance pieces to be performed with his work. Crumb's poignant use of musical borrowing and stylistic allusion also add a sense of reflective history and introspection to his compositions. In some cases, this visual approach to design spills over into the very notation: some of the pieces in the two-volume keyboard collection Makrokosmos (1972-1973) appear engraved on staves that turn and twist into a variety of curious Zodiac symbols. Having eschewed process-oriented compositional techniques, his output slowed in later years as greater demands were placed on his creative faculties to find continually new sounds and inspirations -- though by the turn of the century, his historical importance was already firmly established. Read less
Browse 1-5 of 5 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    George Crumb: Bad Dog!
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9312 Release Date: 12/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Crumb
    Performer:  David Starobin,  Tony Arnold,  George Crumb
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  • 2.
    Crumb Edition Vol 10 / Ann Crumb, James Freeman, Et Al
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9218 Release Date: 02/13/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Crumb
    Performer:  Angela Nelson,  Marcantonio Barone,  Ann Crumb,  David Nelson  ... 
    Conductor:  James Freeman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra 2001
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  • 3.
    George Crumb: Orchestral Music / Thomas Conlin, Et Al
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9174 Release Date: 05/31/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Crumb
    Performer:  Joseph Alessi,  George Crumb,  Paul Cesarczyk,  Susan Narucki
    Conductor:  Thomas Conlin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra,  Warsaw Boys' Choir,  Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus
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  • 4.
    New Music With Guitar Vol 6 / David Starobin, Et Al
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9144 Release Date: 04/27/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Melinda Wagner,  Elliott Carter,  Paul Lansky,  Gunther Schuller  ... 
    Performer:  David Starobin,  George Crumb
    Conductor:  William Purvis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Speculum Musicae
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  • 5.
    George Crumb - 70th Birthday Album - Star Child, Etc
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9095 Release Date: 11/16/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Crumb
    Performer:  Ann Crumb,  George Crumb,  David Starobin,  Susan Narucki  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Conlin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra,  Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus,  Warsaw Boys' Choir
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