George Crumb Manuscripts

George Crumb Manuscripts

img_1592 Out of everything in Special Collections, there was nothing else that I was drawn to as much as these manuscripts by George Crumb. It is easy to tell from the manuscripts that his work was avant-garde, but you can also tell by listening to the pieces being played. The pieces that I looked at were Crumb’s Prophecies of Nostradamus and Agnus Dei.

What is quite intriguing about Prophecies of Nostradamus is unless you are some sort of musical genius, if you were to listen to the piece without looking at the sheet music, you would have absolutely no clue what the time signature is (13/4 then 11/4 in fact), and completely lose track of the idea of what constitutes one beat. I feel that this was one of Crumb’s main objectives–to confuse others and get them thinking about what music is supposed to sound like. I can see why he would call this the title that it is, as Nostradamus is most famous for prophecies about disaster, and this piece definitely sounds like the world is about to end, with his use of constant secondary dominants and forte dynamics.

img_1595Now every Agnus Dei that I have heard is different, but this is one extremely different format wise. The format is rightfully in the shape of a peace sign, as there is a part in piece saying “Dona nobis pacem,” which means “Give us peace” in latin. You also have to actively look for where this piece starts (it starts at the left diagonal line of the peace sign). This makes it difficult for the musician playing not only because of the format, but also because it requires vocalization from them. I would not go and say that this is the most creative version I have seen (go look at Agnus Dei by Leonard Bernstein), but it certainly is something else.

With both of these pieces, seeing them in person as opposed to online gives the person looking at it a greater sense of interaction. Not in the sense of just being able to touch it, but being able to read them easier, see all the small notes that you may not have seen on the screen, and you do not need to tilt your head in impossible angles.

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