Monday, 4 December 2017

George Crumb - Voice Of The Whale / Night Of The Four Moons (1974)

Vox Balaenae, better known as Voice Of The Whale, is probably one of the best known works by George Crumb (b. 1929, Charleston WV) - it's pretty accessible in its mostly languid, Debussyian drift, whilst still getting pretty far out there in its odd performance requirements.  Players are directed to sing into the flute, strum the piano strings with chisels, paperclips and glass rods... oh, and play under blue light whilst wearing black masks.  As the title suggests, the piece was inspired by recordings of actual whale song that Crumb heard in the late 60s, and the mysterious undersea world that it conjures up is beautifully absorbing.  Perfect for listening to whilst watching Blue Planet II with the sound off (which I've been doing for weeks with a wide selection of music).

The other work on this 1974 release was Night Of The Four Moons, which was composed during the Apollo 11 flight to the moon and is set in four sections, each taking a fragment of text by Federico Garcia Lorca (whose words Crumb frequently set to music around this time).  Musically it's as wonderfully strange as Whale, if not more, as the mezzo-soprano intones eerily over a fractured dreamscape of flutes, banjo, percussion and amplified cello.  Totally must get myself Crumbed up to the max, I love his stuff more and more every time I give it a go.


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