Tuesday, August 02, 2005

With the Twist of A Knife: George Crumb

A new work by composer George Crumb receive a world premiere at the Salzburg Festival.

"The familiar tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" arrives in the new collection of songs by Philadelphia composer George Crumb without its usual air of triumph: You're more likely to envision the soldier's pallbearers. Unfolding like a funeral march, the song is groaned as much as it's sung while rusty chains are rattling on a bass drum. "It's war tunes," says soprano soloist Barbara Ann Martin, "with the twist of a knife."

What a great description! And here's a pretty good description of Crumb's unorthodox methods:

"Crumb has always loved unorthodox musical notation and the psychological impact it has on the performers. To that end, the nocturnal instrumental interlude in The Winds of Destiny was printed in reverse negative style - white notes on black paper - which is so unreadable that a conventionally printed version is included as an appendix..........What initially stumped Orchestra 2001 members is the score's request for an Aboriginal Thunderstick. What, exactly, is it? Then, the composer mentioned that he had discovered it through a Crocodile Dundee movie. "It was in a dark scene so I didn't know what it looked like," he says, "but I loved the sound," which resembles the beating wings of a giant bird. And yes, one was found. That incident says much about Crumb's art: Sounds are intuitively assembled from everyday observations, processed and arranged for maximum visceral effect, and then notated with picturesque precision." Read the rest of this fine article here.

And to give you sense of unorthodox notation style here's an illustrative excerpt from his Makrokosmos Vol.1:


Anonymous said...

Crumb's music not only sounds great, it looks greats!

One day I'll get those Makrokosmos scores in my hands. I see them as a kind of pictorical art.

The Well Tempered Blog said...

Ferre, Mil gracias for the kinds words on your blog!

Hope you do find the scores! They are as maddeningly beautiful to see as they are to play.