George Crumb’s “Dream Images”: Echoes of Faintly Remembered Music

In the score of his Dream Images (Love-Death Music) (Gemini), the American composer George Crumb (b. 1929) writes, “musingly, like the gentle caress of faintly remembered music (flexible and expressive).”

This fleeting and atmospheric work for solo piano is the eleventh of twelve Fantasy-Pieces after the Zodiac which make up Crumb’s 1972 collection, Makrokosmos, Volume I, modeled after Bartók. In addition to its reference to astrology, the poetic title suggests the Liebestod (“love death”) of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Notated without bar lines, Dream Images emerges out of silence and blurs the line between the concrete and the ephemeral. “Faintly remembered” strains of Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor waft into our consciousness and then evaporate. Crumb was drawn to the “decayed elegance” of this music. Near the piece’s golden section, the glissando of strummed piano strings emits a metallic sheen. Sound, tonal color, and perceptions of time are liberated in a way similar to Crumb’s predecessors, Charles Ives and Henry Cowell.

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.


  • Crumb: Dream Images (Love-Death Music) (Gemini), Michael Sheppard Amazon

Featured Image: the Blue Ridge Mountains of George Crumb’s native West Virginia. 

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.

1 thought on “George Crumb’s “Dream Images”: Echoes of Faintly Remembered Music”

  1. Thanks for this post. At the premier of this work in 1973, the place of the Chopin was occupied by the 18th Variation from Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Crumb changed it, iirc, because the Rachmaninoff estate objected to its use. (I was at the premier, and shocked to hear Chopin in David Burge’s studio recording when it came out the next year.)


Leave a Comment