View RSS Feed

Edward Elgar

Blog 11

Rate this Entry
I want to bring your attention to a piece I've recently listened to called 'Black Angels' by George Crumb.

It's a fantastic piece in my opinion. It's written for an electric string quartet with added percussion instruments. Crumb takes no half measures in using these added instruments. They have presence and they are loud! The strings are used for screeching material that is almost torturous to hear, but also for music that is so calm and soft the sound would not be out of place in a consort of viols.

The piece is very episodic which suggests the piece is split into shorter sections. The music turns every corner possible, and even if this piece does not search for structural unity it somehow finds structural unity. This is remarkable considering the sheer amount of musical ideas and information you get while listening to this piece. I plan to listen to it multiple times to try and work out the process, the local level structure and the nature of the individual gestures.

If you can get hold of a recording of this piece I'd strongly recommend that you do. 'Black Angels' is an essay in awesomeness!
Classical Music , Composers


  1. Sid James's Avatar
    I haven't heard Crumb's Black Angels but I have heard his Voice of the Whale in concert at Sydney Conservatorium last year (funnily enough, another ensemble will again be performing it there later this year). This has become by now a classic piece. It is for three musicians - pianist, cellist, flautist who also take turns in playing a bit of percussion. They come on the stage wearing masks, which the program notes said represents dehumanisation or something. The music is quite lyrically haunting in parts (the flautist and cellist imitating whale-song) and dissonant in others (for part of it, the piano is "prepared"). I have Crumb's Songs Drones and Refrains of Death on CD & this is a very full-on work (a bit like how you describe Black Angels). I'll have to listen to it at some point, because I got it a while back and kind of abandoned it after a few listens - it's by no means "easy listening" & the whale piece was actually more approachable, imo...
  2. Edward Elgar's Avatar
    I'll have a listen to 'Voice of the Whale', thanks for bringing it to my attention.
  3. science's Avatar
    I love "Black Angels."

    For a work inspired by it, check out Ryu's "Fall of Baghdad." Love it too.