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Vox Balenae (Latin for “Voice of the Whale”), for electric flute, electric cello, and amplified piano, is quintessential George Crumb. It is theatrical – the composer requests that the players wear half masks and perform under blue lights. It has extended techniques and sound effects – the flutist plays and sings at the same time, emulating whale song, the cellist plays glissando harmonics that sound like seagulls, the pianist places a variety of objects on the piano strings, including paper clips and a glass rod in order to create a variety of buzzing and splashing sounds. It is written in a symmetrical form, and much of it relatively slow and quiet. The pitch language is somewhere between free atonality and Ravel-esque impressionism. The piece is a journey from the beginning to the end of time, with sections focusing on several pre-historic eras. The beautiful nocturne at the end represents hope that these majestic creatures, who existed for millennia before man, will continue to live long after man, until the end of time.


Great site by Craig Hultgren explaining the piece a bit further:


Videos of a performance:

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George Crumb


Classical Music
20th Century Music