George Crumb (b. 1929) is an American composer known for his experimentations with timbre and extended instrumental and vocal techniques. He studied composition at Mason College of Music, masters at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and he received his doctorate from the University of Michigan. Many of Crumb's works have aspects of theatre, including this one. Vox Balaenae is to be played by three masked musicians.
As the name implies, Vox Balaenae was inspired by the calls of whales. More of Crumb's theatre comes in to play aside from masks in this piece. He suggests the use of blue light in order to simulate the ocean depths. Due to the techniques used in this piece, the piano must be a grand model. The piece is divided into eight movements, each featuring a different technique. These different techniques are quite different from standard sounds. Many of the piano's extended sounds come from the use of various striking tools on the strings.
Vocalise - Sing flute, performer sings into flute while playing
Sea Theme - "Aeolian harp" performer strums piano strings
Archeozoic - cello harmonics and chisel on piano strings
Proterozoic - Paper clip strums piano strings and sing flute
Paleozoic - Harmonic glissando for cello
Mesozoic - Glass rod on piano strings
Cenozoic - Harmonics called whistle
Sea-Nocturne - Antique cymbals
ComparisonEditBlack Angels was a result of pushes toward electronic techniques in music. This piece is written for electric string quartet (acoustic instruments amplified). In addition to calling for amplified instruments, it requires the performers to also use various percussion instruments. Similar to Vox Balaenae there is extensive use of secondary techniques. Crumb uses many different quotes such as the Dies Irae in this piece. The violin is meant to represent the devil, while the cello represents God.
Vox Balaenae has very interesting sounds, particularly the sing-flute and the various piano sounds caught my attention.
Richard Steinitz. "Crumb, George." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 2, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/A2249252 .
Craig Wright and Bryan Simms. "Music in Western Civilization." (Schirmer, Boston, 2010). pp. 801-803
Vox Balaenae Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8zxHNG1dWo
Black Angels Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5a2RXA2Jn8