Fragments of the late George Crumb

Fragments of the late George Crumb


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2022

A mini-doc, and a favourite piece by a great composer, who died this week.


  • When I studied with George, they had two dachshunds. He was very close to them and they were often in his little studio when he composed. After having lived in Germany for a few years, I dropped by for a visit. He still had his dachshunds. He mentioned that dachshunds are “roof dogs,” and seemed to think that was something truly special. I said his confusion was understandable, and explained that they were actually bred to hunt badgers, that he German word for roof is Dach, and the the word for badger Dachs. I mentioned that Dachshunds are long and narrow so they can go down badger holes, and their noses have a lot of cartilage so the can be bitten with less damage. He seemed a bit crestfallen that his dachshunds weren’t roof dogs. To tell the truth, I was sorry I said anything.

    • Dimsky says:

      Wonderful story, William Osborne. Crumb was very much in vogue when I was studying composition with Peter Racine Fricker at UC Santa Barbara in the early 1970’s. I remember the composition students all carrying around their scores, 11 X 17 sheets with unlikely instrument combinations, a dozen or more percussion instruments, (hence the need for big paper) and flowery titles: “Twelve Refrains on the Descent of Sysiphus” was one that has stuck in my head after all these years. Fricker seemed perplexed and somewhat amused by all of it, but remained very supportive of all his students, no matter their particular style.

  • E says:

    The piece from Mundus canis is a delight. One can easily enter
    the dog’s expressive world through the sounds produced here. What a gentle man he seems to have been. I recall hearing his work in the early 70’s in London, and at least one served for a ballet.

  • Westfan says:

    I remember being bowled over the first time I heard Voice of the Whale, the performance projected large slides of whales on the stage behind the piano during the performance. It was very effective and evocative..