Crumbs! George is 90 today

Crumbs! George is 90 today


norman lebrecht

October 24, 2019

The least appreciated of great American composers turns 90 today. A quiet man, averse to publicity, his music makes wide waves.

Bridge Records have almost caught up with capturing all of his works on 19 albums.

This was his biggest hit, an enduring string quartet masterpiece:


  • Oded Zehavi says:

    A great man. Wonderful composer amazing teacher.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      We had a good coffee once, on Baker Street.

      • Esther Cavett says:

        Ah yes, you wrote about it here (the Marylebone hotel)

        • John Borstlap says:

          As Norman writes in that article:

          “His electronic string quartet, Black Angels, was an ear-opener to America’s Vietnam generation, suggesting that Haydn’s art form could grapple with post-nuclear conflict.”

          I’m struggling to understand how this could be a good thing, and serving the art form.

          • Ross Amico says:

            I find I agree with many of your articulate and well-reasoned comments here, but in this case, even if we ignore the baggage of “grappling with post-nuclear conflict,” I think the music speaks for itself. It gripped me the first time I heard it, and I still find it rewarding all these decades later. It’s original, it’s disturbing, at times it’s even frightening, but it’s also, in its way, strangely beautiful. You are welcome to disagree, of course. We each respond to music differently. As I say, often I am right there with you.

          • John Borstlap says:

            But it’s ugly, primitive, scratching, only sound effects, notes are random if there are any. This is not a subjective opinion, but observation. It sounds like a painting of Basquiat: ‘Untitled’:


          • Olassus says:

            Full title, I believe, is “Black Angels (13 Images From the Dark Land).”

        • Ross Amico says:

          Good article. Although Crumb doesn’t employ actual “submarine noises of swimming whales” in Vox Balanae, à la Hovhaness, if I am reading it correctly. Enjoyable reminiscence, though, and an accurate assessment of his character.

  • Robert Freeman says:

    Our very best. Warm congratulations, George!

  • John Borstlap says:

    Norman’s ironic humour is irresistable.

  • Ricardo says:

    Happy birthday! He spent a week in Bergen back in September 1992, at the time of my daughter’s birth. We performed several of his pieces at the conservatoire. I then met him briefly in Ljubljana in June 1997. A really lovely man whom I remember fondly, and certainly one of a kind as a composer.

  • Brian says:

    Funny, I just got the Kronos Black Angels CD last week. Put it in the car for a first listen; didn’t dare leave the parking lot until that first cut had finished!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Happy Birthday, George Crumb.

  • A great composer and a great teacher; the real thing without any hype.

  • larry says:

    A wonderful composer, to be sure. However — and I certainly mean no disrespect whatsoever — we don’t see his music being programmed all that much these days in the States. Certainly nowhere near as much as back in the ’70s and ’80s.

  • I read your piece and maintain that it’s among the best and most important things you’ve ever written for the mass media. I’m from Ann Arbor, and Crumb is dear to us here. I don’t think even Crumb appreciates how great an effect he has had on younger composers. That Boulez is still feted is proof that the horrors of serialism have hung on far too long for any sane excuse to hold sway.