EXTENDED TECHNIQUES: George Crumb – Ancient Voices of Children George Crumb’s masterful usage of extended techniques draws the listener inside the soulful poetry of Frederico Garcia Lorca. The texts are about the wonder of childhood, the yearning for children, grief at the loss of a child, and finally the quest for the child inside our … Continued
Kim’s Extended Techniques Guided Listening List
1. Our first piece is by George Crumb, whose masterful usage of extended techniques draws the listener inside the soulful poetry of Frederico Garcia Lorca. The texts have to do with the wonder of childhood, the yearning for children, grief at the loss of a child, and finally the quest for the child inside our own souls. This is a wonderful and well filmed performance. Note in particular, at the end of the piece, the two vocalists singing into the open piano. This is both a musical choice for enhanced reverberation, and a performance choice, portraying the search deep inside the soul for the voice of your own child. Remarkable.
2. I have included two versions of Three Irish Legends. The first version follows the score. This version is fascinating because it allows a look at the notation the composer has used to express his directions. Very often, composers have to come up with new notational language, for which (hopefully!) they will include a key and instructions. One of the things to note while watching the score is that even though sounds may seem somewhat random, they are actually exquisitely and exactly placed….not random at all.
The second version is for those who are interested to watch how these sounds are performed.
It is helpful to know the legends, and these are detailed in the first performance with the score. Here is a thumbnail sketch:
- The god of motion, before all time, sends giant tidal waves across the universe, leaving particles from which the other gods fashion suns and planets
- One created sun leaves his brothers in order to offer light and warmth to a dark and desolate people (us!).
- The Father God of the half tongue directs the other gods on their creations, but they can only understand half of what he says. That means that for every single creation, there is a secret, dark, or unexpressed part as well, which was the Father God’s plan.
Enjoy! Listen to the Tides rolling across the Universe!
3. The next piece for flute is pure fun.
4. Now, another tour de force by George Crumb. The piece for electric string quartet, Black Angels, reflects his views on the Vietnam War, and expresses them in terms of conflict between God and the Devil, Good and Evil, and fallen angels. Watch the demands made on the quartet in the performance. Precision, concentration, commitment to the art: all of these are remarkable here in illuminating this otherworldly vision.
5. Another wonderful performance, this time captured with the score imbedded. The percussionist is playing along with a prerecorded background which requires, again, absolute precision and concentration. Here is dreamcatcher.
6. Written and recorded during quarantine in 2020, the Lockdown Tapes are for solo instruments, exploring themes of isolation.
7. This one is so fun, because it is so easy and so effective. The Las Vegas Philharmonic used this effect once in concert at the Smith Center. Check it out!
8. Now! Two pieces which include some performance art. Each of these have not only musical instructions for the performer, but also extensive physical instructions for how the performer is supposed to move and act. The first is short, by John Cage.
9. The Crown of Ariadne is a phenomenally difficult, intricate piece for harp. The harpist is surrounded by percussion equipment which must be exactly placed, and she wears bells around her ankles. During one movement, while playing very complex patterns, she is also dancing very specific patterns with her feet. Sometimes she must follow instructions to retune certain pitches to quarter pitches in order to alter the scale. In the last movement, the harpist plays the harp, now tuned to the stranger pitches, along with a prerecorded tape of herself playing patterns at regular pitch. This creates a jarring sense of coming apart…which in fact, if we have followed the story, is what is happening to Ariadne as she watches her lover, for whom she has risked everything , sail away and abandon her.
The story is of Ariadne, the maiden to whom it was given to guard the labyrinth of the Minotaur, a fierce bull creature. She falls in love with one of the young men chosen to be sacrificed to the creature, and shows him how to find his way out of the labyrinth. There is a scene inside the labyrinth where they are terrorized by the Minotaur (shown by red lighting in the performance), they escape, and after a night sleeping and dreaming on the beach, she awakens to find him sailing away.
In the comments section on the YouTube page, the harpist adds a link to a discussion about the piece. If you connect to that, within the first three and a half minutes, she tells the story of each movement. You may find that interesting.
10. OKAY! You have made it all the way to HERE! Now, one more dessert for you. This is Mambo, from West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece. But this is no ordinary Mambo. This is the most raucous, joy filled Mambo I have ever seen….even the audience is in on the party. I can include it because the orchestra is called on to do more than simple playing. And here they have a blast doing it.
Thanks, and ENJOY!