Crumb, George Henry

Crumb, George Henry, 1929–, American composer, b. Charleston, W.Va., grad. Mason College of Music, Charleston (B.A. 1950); Univ. of Illinois (M.A. 1953); Univ. of Michigan (D.M.A. 1959). In his compositions, Crumb often uses mysterious vocalizations (whispers, shrieks, hisses, clicks, etc.), amplification and electronic effects, and the sounds of such unconventional instruments as thumb pianos and Jew's harps. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his orchestral Echoes of Time and the River (1967) and is particularly noted for his settings of the poems of Federico García Lorca, e.g., Madrigals (1965, 1969) and Ancient Voices of Children (1970). Among his other compositions are Black Angels (1970) for electric string quartet; the monumental Star-Child (1977) for soprano, chorus, and four orchestras; and Zeitgeist (1988) for amplified pianos. He composed only two pieces during the 1990s, largely due to his teaching schedule at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, where he was a professor (1965–97); from 1959 to 1964 he taught at the Univ. of Colorado. After his retirement, he produced Unto the Hills (2001), a suite of Appalachian folk song settings; the orchestral Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (2002); and Voices from the Morning of the Earth (2007), expressive arrangements of folk songs, spirituals, and pop music. Over a long, ongoing career, he has produced only around 50 pieces.

See D. Gillespie, ed., George Crumb: Profile of a Composer (1986); D. Cohen, George Crumb: A Bio-Bibliography (2002).

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