George Crumb


Lovely AMQS from Crumb’s 1970 composition “Ancient Voices of Children”



Type:  AMQS
Description: (1929-2022) Recently deceased American composer of contemporary classical music. Especially influenced by composers such as Mahler, Debussey and Bartok, he wrote his 4-volume piano set “Makrokosmos” (1972–79) in response to Bartók’s earlier piano set “Mikrokosmos”. His compositions often include musical quotations from composers incl. Bach, Chopin, and Schubert, and jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.

The use of pastiche is also found in his music, as is text by Frederico Garcia Lorca, whose poetry Crumb set 11 times. His compositions are known for pushing the limits of technical prowess by way of frequent use of extended techniques. The unusual timbres he uses evoke a surrealist atmosphere which portray emotions of considerable intensity with vast and sometimes haunting soundscapes.

His few large-scale works incl. “Echoes of Time and the River” (1968 Pulitzer Prize for Music), and “Star-Child” (2001 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition); however, his output consisted of mostly music for chamber ensemble or solo instrumentalists. Among his best known compositions are “Black Angels” (1970), a striking commentary on the Vietnam War for electric string quartet; “Ancient Voices of Children” (1970) for a mixed chamber ensemble employing theatrical ritual, evocative masks, costumes, and sonorities; and “Vox Balaenae (1971), a musical evocation of the humpback whale.

AMQS, “The Little boy was Looking for his Voice” from his 1970 Ancient Voices of Children, on 3 ¾ x 8 ½ sheet inscribed with sentiment, Media, Pa., 2018.   Beautifully done using 2 different black pens and a red pen noting use of hums and tongue clicks!

Ancient Voices of Children (1970), subtitled “A Cycle of Songs on Texts by Federico Garcia Lorca”, is scored for soprano, boy soprano, oboe, mandolin, harp, amplified piano and toy piano, and percussion (3 players). It premiered at the Library of Congress in Washington on Oct. 31, 1970 as part of the Coolidge Foundation’s 14th Festival of Chamber Music. The 1971 debut Nonesuch Records recording sold over 70,000 units, one of the best-selling recordings in 20th century classical music. Ancient Voices of Children is in 5 movements, 3 are setting of fragments of longer poems by García Lorca. Two purely instrumental dance-interludes appear between vocal movements, incl. “El niño busca su voz (The Little Boy was Looking for his Voice)”. Highly virtuosic in style, Ancient Voices of Children is famous for its bizarre and often eerie vocal effects. As with many of Crumb’s compositions, it includes a large number of experimental sounds and instruments, and all performers are also asked to speak, whisper, or yell at times. Of his inspiration for Ancient Voices of Children, Crumb stated: “It is sometimes of interest to a composer to recall the original impulse – the ‘creative germ’ – of a compositional project. In the case of Ancient Voices I felt this impulse to be the climactic final words of the last song: ‘… and I will go very far … to ask Christ The Lord to give me back my ancient soul of a child.'”

Condition:  Very good

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