Makrokosmos is a series of four volumes of pieces for piano by American composer George Crumb. The first volume of the set was composed in , while the last was completed in early ; the first performance of all four volumes in sequence was given by Yvar Mikhashoff , Aki Takahashi , Stephen Manes , Freida Manes , Jan Williams and Lynn Harbold , in Buffalo, New York , on 12 June Makrokosmos, Volume I was composed in for pianist and friend David Burge who previously commissioned and premiered Crumb's Five Pieces for Piano The collection is subtitled Twelve Fantasy-Pieces after the Zodiac and is scored for amplified piano. Its contents are as follows:.
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He employed unusual visual angles and imaginative special film effects to create an incredibly potent blending of the sonic and the visual. The record industry is poised at the very first beginning of a totally new concept for delivering new music to the public and I feel that Mr. Here again the visual elements support so eloquently the musical excerpts including music by John Cage and other composers. I extend my very best wishes for Mr. Need proof? Just look here. Tangent: Can you believe the editor of this webzine just bought his first DVD player just two months ago?
Maybe this Crumb video can be the motivating carrot that remedies the situation. Ah, life is much sweeter in DVD Land. Anyway, back to that George Crumb disc. While the DVD vividly captures the sonic nuances of the concert hall, our eyes get a special play-by-play perspective.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the parallel audio-only release on CD. By the way, the Crumb video is currently in my Netflix queue so I can watch it all again. Margaret Leng Tan performs the two twelve-movement cycles each of which is subdivided into three groups of four pieces, each piece dedicated to someone born under the corresponding sign of the Zodiac with exemplary precision.
These pieces constitute a massive and detailed exploration of the sounding possibilities of the piano. This may seem a mighty task, but solely the honest intention of achieving something like that is bound to reach far, and far he has reached.
The apparent ease of the flow of events in Makrokosmos may persuade one of an improvisational approach, but this is belied by the comprehensive sketches, with planning of the over-arching intent as well as the minute details.
Crumb has designed the last of the four parts of the three divisions of the two sections as a symbol, thus in Volume 1 presenting piece number 4 as a cross, number 8 as circle and number 12 as a spiral. As can be viewed above, Crumb also had an affinity for fantasy-evoking titles! Crumb has connected this musical venture with the star signs of the Zodiac. Crumb has exemplified the characters of the Zodiac with the initials of specified persons born under those signs, like Lorca and Brahms, to mention a couple.
As the booklet text by Steven Bruns which to a high degree constitutes the source for these comments states, one of the more important aspects of Makrokosmos is the exploration of timbres, innumerable variations on nuances of timbres. This is a true listening adventure for the clean-eared! Of course, many un-orthodox playing practices are exercised by the brilliant pianist Margaret Leng Tan, like plucking strings inside the piano, playing glissandi across strings, sliding a scrape along a string and so forth - and the truly extraneous sound appears in whistles and vocal utterances This reveals a peculiar, childish, humoristic whim, not unlike the counting and whistling in some Stockhausen pieces, or the bird whistles in some Cage works.
However, these objects do not, as with Cage, stay put during performance, but are inserted and removed by the performer during playing. What better way to start a work of music than with a piece entitled Primeval Sounds?
Yes, a long neck, a proud look, a fantastic hairdo! This music is new and old; a remembrance of past eras in this new rippling of fast moving fingers up and down the keyboard! A glimpse, barely a glimpse Pastorale from the Kingdom of Atlantis is rinsed romanticism, somehow - a very short, beautiful pianistic bagatelle: a little child jumping about in the pasture, golden locks in golden sunlight - a serious playfulness The music moves in slow breaths, hovering over the topography like ominous thunderclouds.
Yes, and this was just part 1 of Volume 1, and the rest of the set is just as varied; madly changing appearance, in a hall of mirrors of timbres and whimsical ideas, carefully executed by Margaret Leng Tan. The Phantom Gondolier of part 2 of Volume 1 amounts to an intensive display of alternative ringing and rustling piano practices and the added pleasure? The music is exciting, the playing is marvelous - Mode has produced another great disc. And please meet Mr. Chopin on track 11!
As the pianist Margaret Leng Tan demonstrated on Saturday night at Zankel Hall, you must also be a physically flexible and focused actor. But producing the unearthly and exotic sounds involves much more than simply playing the piano. In one work she used a glass tumbler to glide up and down the depressed strings to produce distant banshee cries or whistles, all of which were subjected to discreet amplification that prolonged and bent the tones.
When some plucked string effect came off just right, Ms. Tan would thrust her hands into the air, her fingers spread, like a sorceress pleased with some new spice she had added to a gurgling brew. And in several pieces, while playing and scraping, Ms. Tan also had to sing and shout.
On the surface many of these pieces can seem merely like timeless, amorphous essays in sound. The best ones are those in which the content of the music -- the astringent harmonies, the skittish atonal flights, the crisscrossing contrapuntal lines -- engage the brain as well as the ear. The few times Mr. Still, it was impossible not to respond to Ms.
The DVD version should be available again in several months. The music of George Crumb is certainly being celebrated this year to mark his 80th birthday. And Mode Records have re-issued a recording of both books of Makrokosmos, performed by Margaret Leng Tan, originally released in for his 75th birthday. Extra-musical influences are offered in the designation of a sign of the Zodiac to each piece as well as a descriptive title.
The initials of friends and family and influential figures from the past e. In an interview with Robert Shuffett Peters Corp. RS: Your calligraphy and careful notation have occasioned much commentary over the years. Would you comment on notation in general? GC: I endeavour to make my own notation as simple and conventional as possible, since I want to communicate clearly and economically all the necessary information to the performer.
Of course notation can also be imaginative and provocative — I feel that all good music looks beautiful on the page. The extended sound-world of the piano called upon in order to perform Makrokosmos includes techniques such as glissandi on the strings, production of harmonics, percussion on crossbeams and the soundboard, pizzicato, the use of a wire brush, the use of a light metal chain, some paper to produce a metallic buzz, thimbles, glass tumblers, arm clusters as well as detailed use of the sustaining and sostenuto pedals, particularly in sustaining groups of notes silently and activating those particular notes through strumming or invoking an eerie resonance at the bottom of the piano.
Added to these techniques are various vocal effects such as whistling warbling and theremin-like , shouting, whispering and moaning to further extend the sound-world. The extended techniques are not the only reason for this heightened resonance and reverberance.
What Margaret Leng Tan achieves particularly well in her performance is the shading of the softer dynamics from p to ppp and she really draws the listener into the melodic shapes and layering of texture in this dynamic range.
On the other hand, though her loud playing is very powerful and with a roundness and fullness of sound, some of the loud staccato passages could benefit from an even more incisive attack. Her vocal contributions of words and eerie moanings are reasonably well judged and dramatic, where called for. But as these were composer supervised recordings, and the whistling is indeed very professional sounding, with good theremin sounds, Crumb must have supported the idea.
Darkly mysterious 2. Proteus Pisces W. Pastorale from the Kingdom of Atlantis, ca. Taurus J. The Phantom Gondolier Scorpio G. Night-Spell I Sagittarius A. The Abyss of Time Virgo A.
Spring-Fire Aires D. Spiral Galaxy [Symbol] Aquarius B. The Mystic Chord Sagittarius R. Rain-Death Variations Pisces F. Gargoyles Taurus P. Cadenza Apocalittica Scorpio L. Cosmic Wind Libra S. Litany of the Galactic Bells Leo R. Agnus Dei [Symbol] Capricorn R.
Crumb and Ms. GC: Every composer should be permitted an occasional flight of whimsy!
GEORGE CRUMB: Makrokosmos I-III
Indeed, very few post piano compositions continue to be so widely performed and recorded, and from the present vantage point, it seems increasingly certain that these pieces have earned a secure place in the repertoire. Despite the many innovative features of this composition, the general conception of the two volumes of Makrokosmos belongs to the long and venerable tradition of composing pieces that demonstrate the technical and musical resources of an instrument. Just as pianists come to appreciate the intricate architecture of Makrokosmos in the process of rehearsal and performance, the design of each piece and of the whole crystallizes for listeners after repeated hearings. At one stage in the genesis of Makrokosmos , Crumb had planned three volumes, each with nine pieces plus an Epilogue. The twelve pieces of each volume are grouped into three parts of four pieces, and each part is to be played without interruption. Reflecting his preoccupation with time and space — in a musical as well as general sense — Crumb assigns to each movement a sign of the Zodiac. With this characteristically rich array of extramusical annotations, George Crumb suggests the multifarious influences on the composition.
George Crumb wrote Makrokosmos in and These pieces constitute a massive and detailed exploration of the sounding possibilities of the piano. This may seem a mighty task, but solely the honest intention of achieving something like that is bound to reach far, and far he has reached. The apparent ease of the flow of events in Makrokosmos may persuade one of an improvisational approach, but this is belied by the comprehensive sketches, with planning of the over-arching intent as well as the minute details. Crumb has designed the last of the four parts of the three divisions of the two sections as a symbol, thus in Volume 1 presenting piece number 4 as a cross, number 8 as circle and number 12 as a spiral. As can be viewed above, Crumb also had an affinity for fantasy-evoking titles! Some of these do remind me not so little of Terry Riley 's habit of giving his pieces beautiful and thought-provoking titles, like on his album Harp of New Albion piano in just intonation and Salome Dances for Peace String Quartet Crumb has connected this musical venture with the star signs of the Zodiac.