Monday, October 24, 2011

Night of the Electric Insects

Cover art detail from the Black Angels album (1990) featuring the Kronos Quartet

Pushing the boundaries of classical music, George Crumb has created some of the most interesting avant-garde compositions of the late 20th century, navigating that precarious border between innovation and inaccessibility, always focusing on the expressive qualities of sound.

In honor of his birth date, we're celebrating Crumb's work with a selection of my favorite pieces, compositions that evoke narratives and images within my mind, provoking both intellectual and emotional responses, inspirations that encourage me to pursue my own creative endeavors. Because of the immediacy of his music, appreciation comes easy. Unlike many other avant-garde composers of his generation, his works are challenging but not discouraging.

There is no prerequisite to understanding and enjoying Crumb's music. Of course, possessing a strong knowledge of music history and compositional theory adds value to the experience, but the sounds can stand alone, articulating awesome poetic visions.

George Crumb was born on October 24, 1929. (Photo by Sabine Matthes)

Now, let's listen to some music.

My absolute favorite Crumb composition is Black Angels: Thirteen Images from the Dark Land (1970). Here are pieces from a few different performances:

Here are a few other pieces that I especially like:

George Crumb with David Starobin


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