Music by George Crumb
A recital of music by George Crumb, one of this era's most prolific and fascinating composers. His soundscapes sweep you into a realm that takes inspiration from the world around us, but which transforms it into slightly different dimensions. This program, from February, 2012, celebrates Crumb's year-long "Composer-in-Residence" at Curtis, and features the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble, which studies and performs music of the 20th and 21th centuries. It also includes an extensive conversation between George Crumb and Curtis faculty member David Ludwig. The program:
Eleven Echoes of Autumn (for violin, alto flute, clarinet, and piano)
This early (1966) work was written on commission by the Aeolian Chamber Players. Here is part of what George Crumb has to say about his music:
"Each of the echi exploits certain timbral possibilities of the instruments. For example, eco 1 (for piano alone) is based entirely on the 5th partial harmonic, eco 2 on violin harmonics in combination with 7th partial harmonics produced on the piano (by drawing a piece of hard rubber along the strings). A delicate aura of sympathetic vibrations emerges in echi 3 and 4, produced in the latter case by alto flute and clarinet playing into the piano (close to the strings). At the conclusion of the work the violinist achieves a mournful, fragile timbre by playing with the bow hair completely slack.
The most important generative element of Eleven Echoes is the "bell motif" — a quintuplet figure based on the whole-tone interval — which is heard at the beginning of the work. This diatonic figure appears in a variety of rhythmic guises, and frequently in a highly chromatic context.
Each of the eleven pieces has its own expressive character, at times overlaid by quasi-obbligato music of contrasting character, e.g., the "wind music" of the alto flute and clarinet in eco 2 or the "distant mandolin music" of the violin in eco 3. The larger expressive curve of the work is arch-like: a gradual growth of intensity to a climactic point (eco 8), followed by a gradual collapse.
Although Eleven Echoes has certain programmatic implications for the composer, it is enough for the listener to infer the significance of the motto-quote from Federico Garcia Lorca: "… y los arcos rotos donde sufre el tiempo" ("… and the broken arches where time suffers"). These words are softly intoned as a preface to each of the three cadenza (echi 5-7) and the image "broken arches" is represented visually in the notation of the music which underlies the cadenzas."
Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik: Ruminations on "Round Midnight"
George Crumb admires the music of jazz master Thelonius Monk, and here he offers a quintessentially "Crumb-ian" take on this famous tune. Literal statements from Monk open and close this 25-minute work, while Crumb varies the music with his unique use of the piano, both inside and out, emphasizing that instrument's percussive side. Crumb dedicated this work to the Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli.
Musical Word of the Week: Timbre
1. Acoustics, Phonetics: the characteristic quality of a sound, independent of pitch and loudness, from which its source or manner of production can be inferred. Timbre depends on the relative strengths of the components of different frequencies, which are determined by resonance.
2. Music. the characteristic quality of sound produced by a particular instrument or voice; tone color.