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Crumb, George

Crumb, George

Born in 1929


Inducted in 2001

George Crumb attended Mason University and received a master’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1953. After a Fulbright Fellowship allowed him to study privately with Boris Blacher at the Berlin Hochschule, he returned to the United States to enroll in the University of Michigan, he earned his doctorate in 1959 after studying primarily with Ross Lee Finney. His best known teaching position was his thirty-three year tenure at the University of Pennsylvania (1965-1997), which would ultimately be known as “the Philadelphia School.” Crumb’s pivotal scores were his 1867 orchestral pieces Echoes of Time and the River and the second of his settings of Lorca texts—Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death (1968). When echoes of Time and the River won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Music, Crumb’s musical career boomed. It was at this time that Crumb made substantive use of both original tonal music and musical quotations from Bach to Schubert to Richard Strauss, they also evidenced continuing exploration into the production of new vocal and instrumental sounds—simultaneous singing and playing into the flute, the use of thimbles of string instruments and both chisels and glass tumblers on the strings of the piano (not to mention piano harmonics and hand-dampening), artificial harmonic glissandi on the cello (the so-called “seagull effect”); infrequently encountered instruments—banjo, sitar, musical saw—were employed as well. The most important of Crumb’s projects after 1971 was the composition of the four books of Makrokosmos, which served to summarize the various concepts to have become part of his creative animus. The largest of all of his compositions, 1977’s Star Child, would seem to be a valedictory of sorts, as Crumb has spent the last two decades fine-tuning his style with a small series of exquisitely crafted scores.