George Crumb’s “Dream Sequence (Images II)”: A Spectral Soundscape

The American composer George Crumb passed away yesterday at his home in Media, Pennsylvania. He was 92.

Crumb was one of the twentieth century’s most innovative colorists. His exploration of timbre led to the use of numerous extended instrumental and vocal techniques, such as a strummed or prepared piano and electronic amplification. He experimented with alternative forms of notation and theatrical performance elements. Throughout his music, the influence of Mahler, Debussy, and Bartók blends with Asian influences and Appalachian folk elements. The atmospheric nature of his music is suggested by poetic titles such as Echoes of Time and the River (awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1968), Ancient Voices of Children (1970), Black Angels (1971), and Dream Images (Love-Death Music) (Gemini)Crumb defined music as “a system of proportions in the service of spiritual impulse.”

In an interview with Edward Strickland, George Crumb drew parallels between his perception of sound and the mountains of his native West Virginia:

I have always thought the echoing sense of my music is distilled really from the sense of hearing I developed there…it’s haunting, you know. Say on a quiet summer evening, sounds from the other side of the river waft over, you see, because there are hills on both sides. You can sometimes hear sounds from the mouths of the river. It’s a special characteristic.

We experience this spacial dimension in George Crumb’s haunting Dream Sequence (Images II). Written in 1976, the piece is scored for violin, cello, piano, percussion, and an offstage glass harmonica that requires two players. The glass harmonica, marked “quasi subliminal” in the score, hovers as a spectral presence throughout the entire piece. It provides the kind of eternal, cosmic canvas we hear in Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question. Notated on a circular score, Dream Sequence (Images II) unfolds as a series of fleeting, dreamlike images. In the score, the composer provided the following descriptive note: “Poised, timeless, breathing, as an afternoon in late summer.”

Recordings

  • Crumb: Dream Sequence (Images II), James Freeman, Orchestra 2001 Amazon

Featured Image: photograph by Sarah Shatz

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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