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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification Author(s): Victoria Adamenko Source: American Music , Vol. 23, No.

George Crumb's Channels of Mythification Author(s): Victoria Adamenko Source: American Music, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Autumn, 2005), pp. 324-354 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: Accessed: 05-08-2016 05:49 UTC

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George Crumb's Channels

of Mythification

Music tends to be mythological, at least some of it.

Some of my music is mythological just in expression. People tell me that it has that sense sometimes--ancient.

George Crumb, from a December 9, 1997, interview at Rutgers University

George Crumb's fascination with mythology has not previously been

specifically addressed, although since the 1970s, when he wrote the large- scale works that brought him fame--Ancient Voices of Children, Black An- gels (both 1970), Vox Balaenae (1971), and Makrokosmos I-III (1972-74)--the

lexis of the critical essays on Crumb has included references to magic,1

mythic characters, and mythic time. Evidently, this perception stemmed from two major components of Crumb's style. First, the provocative titles, program notes, character designations, and other verbal comments by the composer convey his interest in the mythological. Second, of course, is the

sound matter itself-a bricolage of unusual timbres, spell-like recitations,

counting in multiple languages, and other sound effects that invoke the "supernatural." These very elements stirred some criticism among a few

commentators who refused to take Crumb's "spooky effects" seriously.

A native of Moscow, Russia, Victoria Adamenko received her Ph.D. in musicology

from Rutgers University in 2000; her dissertation was titled "Neo-Mythologism in Twentieth-Century Music." She has taught at the University of West Florida;

previously she has been published in Journal of Musicological Research, Music

Research Forum, The Organ Encyclopedia, the European Journal for Semiotic Studies,

and Semiotica 2001, and she has given papers in Helsinki, Seattle, Montreal, and


American Music Fall 2005

@ 2005 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 325

The composer then was rebuked for "lack of musical substance" and a

"tightly circumscribed use of primary material" behind the superficial and programmatic effects, and derided for a lack of "intellectual inter-

est" or "appeal to the senses."2 These disapprovals echoed the ideals

of modernism, when a direct appealing to the senses by experiment- ing with timbres and orchestral colors was condemned as shallow un- less it submitted to rational structural procedures with timbres-such

as Klangfarbenmelodie. To the disappointment of those who expected to

find a rationale behind Crumb's novel "effects," he repeatedly insisted

that these novelties were merely products of "a composer's whimsy,"3

"purely fanciful."4 Unsurprisingly, the syncretism of Crumb's concep-

tion was overlooked from the rationalist premises that value abstract


It did not take long for traditional pitch-class set analysts to come to

Crumb's defense and to demonstrate his ability to integrate and rigor-

ously treat his materials.5 The results of these analyses are helpful, but

they may be even more beneficial for a fuller comprehension of Crumb's

world if combined with a broader cultural approach. I suggest that sev-

eral "channels of mythification" are detectable in Crumb's work-nu-

merology, syncretism, symbolization, archaism, ritualism, and universal-

izing of the structural components of language and formal design. These

"channels" are interrelated; they frequently overlap, and they certainly

resist being defined by a single "-ism" term. Mythification penetrates

different aspects of Crumb's creativity: philosophy, aesthetics, the choice

of poetic text, musical language, form, and notation. For instance, the

tendency for symbolization in Crumb's aesthetics is connected to his

"symbolic notation," which, in its turn, relates to the cyclic and sym- metrical designs of form, dynamics, and pitch organization.

Crumb's emphasis on the "universals of music" calls for an application

of Claude Levi-Strauss's analysis of myth, while the composer's reliance

on the symbolic and the "pre-reflective" archetypes may be viewed as

a manifestation of twentieth-century "neo-mythologism." The latter is

presented in the studies of the Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics, lin-

guistics, and criticism-in particular, of Eleazar Meletinsky (b. 1918),

Zara Minz (1927-87), Yuri Lotman (1922-93), Boris A. Uspenski (b. 1927),

and Vladimir Toporov.6 I will first survey features of the mythic thought

that are outlined in these methodological paradigms that are relevant

to Crumb's work (whose mutually complementary nature allows us

to disregard their systemic borderlines), and then examine individual "channels" of Crumb's mythification. The analytical focus will be on

Ancient Voices of Children and Black Angels as exemplary works that rep- resent the tendency but not exhaust it.

Levi-Strauss argued that repetitiveness and symmetry are "elementary

molds" of structuring, universally pertinent to the human mindset, which

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326 Adamenko

reveal themselves in myth-making.7 Mythic time is not only circular,

cyclic, and recurrent; it has also been described as timeless-that is, a

"time before time," when the "first event" took place, and the model for

consequent events was established. In connection to the reactualization of the precedent, relation of reason and consequence are replaced by

repetition and reiteration. Such ideas as repetition, symmetry, and op-

position may be considered, to a certain degree, apart from stylistic dif-

ferences and historical evolution. Levi-Strauss noted that such universal

patterns of structuring are not "pre-ordained and inflexible structures,

but rather molds from which are produced forms that turn up as entities

without being obliged to remain identical."8 He used these "molds" as a basis for comparative analyses of music and myth. Toporov attrib-

uted four possible forms of symmetrical transformations: "movement,"

"antimovement," "mirror movement," and "mirror antimovement" to

the Paleolithic period of myth making.9 Others point to repetitions or

symmetrical structures within mythic texts typically containing slight

combinatorial changes, as evidence of myth's propensity for collecting

variants of the same idea.10

The structures of symmetrical concentric circles and inversions are

typical of the mythic cosmos. This is illustrated most clearly by the my- thologem of the circle in its various manifestations (mandala, anima mun-

di).11 A mythologem, according to the Tartu-Moscow school, is a symbol

with a virtually unlimited spectrum of meanings, a "sign of all," to use

Minz's expression.12 The mythologem of the circle, for example, is rich

with associations and particularly evocative of "all"-hence its use in

ritual plates, discs, and bowls, and its many meanings, from the idea

of eternal return to the embracing structure of the universe.13 Another

widely spread mythologem is that of the world tree-the all-embrac-

ing and symmetrical structure that symbolically represents the whole


The scholars of the Tartu-Moscow school observed that, although a

restoration of mythic thought in its totality is impossible from the posi-

tion of modern culture, nevertheless, many fragments of that thought

were resurrected in twentieth-century artistic creations. One example is

number symbolism. The time-honored mythification and sacralization

of certain numbers and operations with them has been due to their role

in creation myths. In many cosmologies, each number had a unique

meaning attached to it. Numbers in archaic myths "were connected to

each other not mathematically, but rather symbolically, associatively,

aesthetically, and mnemonically."14 In the twentieth century, Toporov


a tendency to return semantic significance back to numbers is being

realized in the arts and poetry-the realm that serves as a sanctu-

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 327

ary for the achievements of archaic

Archaic numerical

notions continue their life in the modern creative mind; moreover,

those notions undergo development and transformation, as they

serve again and again as nascent material for the new myth-poetical

images and concepts.15

Meletinsky argued that the emergence of twentieth-century "neo-my-

thologism" was largely due to the works of Carl Jung (1875-1961), which,

via mythic symbols, established a bridge between the archaic and the modern, the collective and the individual. Jung argued that various numerological structures and symbols often used in myths "not only

express order, they create it,"16 following the ultimate goal of creation

myths. Meletinsky emphasized that a "conscious appropriation of an

unconscious discovery" is characteristic of new-mythologism; as he


Jungian psychoanalysis, with its universalizing and metaphorical

interpretation of the unconscious play of the imagination, presented a certain trampoline for a huge leap from the psychology of an alien-

ated or oppressed modem individual to the pre-reflexive psychology

of archaic society.17

The turn to prereflective psychology is aimed at achieving wholeness

(i.e., the "healing" of the fragmented personality, in Jungian terms). In

mythic consciousness, the idea of syncretism is inseparable from medici-

nal function.18 The past is viewed in myths as the time of primordial unity,

when many currently disparate elements were fused together, including

languages and the arts. Thus wholeness can be attained through ritual

and its symbolic forms.

Neo-mythologism via Jung

Crumb has mentioned owning Jung's books.19 Both the direct and the me-

diated influence of Jung's ideas on Crumb are possible, since the mandala

and other Jungian archetypes are also discernable in Lorca's poetry--one

of the acknowledged sources for Crumb's own poetics.20 Crumb, from

his position as a late modernist composer, expressed a longing for the

archetypal. Consider his well-known comment about Lorca's poetry:

I feel that the essential meaning of this poetry is concerned with

the most primary things: life, death, love, the smell of the earth, the

sounds of the wind and the sea. These ur-concepts are embodied

in a language which is primitive and stark, but which is capable of

infinitely subtle nuance.21

The composer's fascination with "the ur-concepts" (the archetypal topics

of poetry), and the archaic or "primitive" language in which they are

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328 Adamenko

expressed, may be rooted in the rediscovery of the "archaic remnants" (a term Jung borrowed from Freud). These, according to Jung, reveal

themselves in modern thought through dreams or artistic creations. Analyzing both, Jung discerned images-chiefly visual sacred symbols,

such as the cross and magic circle (mandala)-that were typologically

similar to those found in archaic myths, collective in their nature and

origin, "emanating from primeval dreams and creative fantasies."22 Jung

specifically studied his patients' night dreams and compared them to myths. Night dream is also a realm of imagery typical of Crumb, ex-

pressed in such pieces as Night Music (1963, rev. 1976), Dream Sequence (1976), and others. From the perspective of Jungian thought, it is not

surprising that Mandala was a projected title for one of Crumb's unreal- ized compositions, as he admitted. When asked if any of his circles were

associated with mandala, the symbol typical for Eastern religions, he

said, "I was thinking of things associated with mandala while working

on a piece that was never completed. I sketched this piece and used the

word Mandala as the title."23Although Crumb never realized his Mandala

project, some of his other "circle-music" scores, upon closer examination,

show their connection to mandala as an archetypal idea. The Sanskrit word mandala means circle, and Crumb's work displays an abundance

of circular forms both explicit (through notation) and implicit (through

palindromic structures).

Neo-mythological "conscious appropriation of unconscious discover-

ies," in Crumb's case, may very well have been based on his continuous

reading from mythology. As Crumb indicated, his interest in mythology

draws more from an idiosyncratic worldview than actual mythic narra-

tives or characters: "My music is not programmatic in the nineteenth- century sense of this word. [The use of myths] is not literal, [but is] a

part of my thinking."24 In the 1997 interview, Crumb portrayed himself

as someone familiar with different mythological traditions, from Greek

to Norse, finding inspiration in standard texts on the subject:

I have Edith Hamilton's book on Greek mythology. I have read that

book: she is very good on the myths! These are retellings of the myths in a very concise way. She also has a short book on Norse

mythology. She has also written The Way of the Greeks, which is one of

the greatest books ever

There is another writer, Bulfinch,

who has a book called World Mythology, which I read, and looked

through some other books by him.25

Crumb's approach to myth also involves what Meletinsky ascribed to

neo-mythologism as "the universalizing and metaphorical

the imagination," demonstrably so in Ancient Voices of Children. Here,

Crumb testified to referring to an imaginary Indian Ghost Dance, which

he described as "an ancient mythological dance-I used it just as a title

play of

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 329

[in movement IV], referring to a mysterious character, after reading about

it in one of the books on Indian mythology."26 In the context of a Garcia Lorca work such as Ancient Voices the reference to the Indian Ghost Dance

is a universalizing gesture.

Crumb's predilection for symmetry, which he himself acknowledged,27 in combination with his idiosyncratic fondness for the "child theme" and

the idea of circular notation, may all be interpreted in Jungian terms as

an attempt to achieve personal wholeness through mandala symbolism.

Jungian theory links the depths of the psyche (unconsciousness in a

dream), individual wholeness (holy, or healed state of the psyche), the

archetype of the child ("who knows as yet of no conflict," the symbol

of wholeness), and roundness (one of the forms expressing the idea of

wholeness; a "sacred precinct where all the split-parts of the personality

are united").28 Crumb's employment of circular notation and circular

structuring in association with the child theme matches Jung's descrip-

tion of the child archetype as "a symbol


is not surprising that so many mythological saviors are child gods."29

The significance of the figure of the child in Crumb's works (Star-Child

capable of numerous transfor-


: it can be expressed by roundness, the circle or

and Ancient Voices of Children, for example) matches Jungian denotation

of the child archetype as "unifying the opposites; a mediator, bringer of healing, that is, one who makes whole." At the same time, the idea

of wholeness, according to Jung, can be best expressed by a circle.30 The circle would then represent "the total being." To achieve this, one

must be healed: "The descent into the depths

ness in our dream

psyche, dream, child, circle, and the idea of wholeness-are also parts

of Crumb's own rhetoric regarding his artistic philosophy. Crumb noted

that "a strong initial conception for a piece of music must come from

deep within the psyche. A composer draws on this source according to an

urgent need to express. If a composer remains true to himself, I feel that

stylistic consistency would follow naturally [emphasis mine]."31 That

Crumb acknowledges deep psychic levels of a composer's creativity and

relates it to individual wholeness, or the inner integrity of a composer, is

comparable to the role outlined by Jung of the mandala as an "archetype

of wholeness," and its ability to "put together apparently irreconcilable

opposites and bridge over apparently hopeless splits."32

The Jungian model, according to which the archetypal images are au-

tonomously available to each individual psyche, is apparent in Crumb's

declared independence from any historical sources and from the influ- ence of immediate predecessors who had used these archetypal images.

From his testimony, it would seem that he conceived of his graphic nota-

tion by turning directly to the archetypal "ur-forms" rather than to any historical models: "I was told later about the circular scores of the Renais-

of utter unconscious-

will bring healing." These notions-deep levels of

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330 Adamenko

sance and the Baroque; at the time I used this kind of notation I did not

know any historical [circular] scores."33 This is, indeed, surprising, given

that Ross Lee Finney (1906-97), Crumb's professor of composition at the

University of Michigan from 1953 to 1955, employed circular notation

in his Spherical Madrigals (1947) for a cappella choir (see Example 1).

Although the seven texts used in Spherical Madrigals deal with the sym-

bolism of a circle, only the first madrigal, printed on the cover page, is

presented as a circle. Nevertheless, the mythologem of a circle is exploited

throughout Spherical Madrigals by other, nongraphic, means: the use of

rounded, inverted, and mirror forms, canons, and poetry that expresses

the symbolism of a circle. The circularly notated madrigal looks more like

a fancy cover decoration of the score than an independent piece. It is in

canon form, as are many circularly scored compositions of the Renais- sance and the Baroque that appear to be the prototypes for this work.

For example, the canon Sive lidum (ca. 1490) by Ramos de Pareja34 has

a structure similar to that of Finney's madrigal, with the four voice en-

trances marked by the wind-rose. Not surprisingly, Crumb's own pieces

such as Crucifixus and Agnus Dei, from Makrokosmos I-II, resonate with

earlier prototypes-for instance, a "graphically" notated canon Clama ne

cesses (1611) by Stich von Wolfg.35 One might infer that Crumb learned

the idea of modeling on early circular notation from Finney. However,

Crumb denies the influence of his professor in this matter, claiming that

Example 1. Ross Lee Finney, Spherical Madrigals (1947), cover page. @ 1965 Hen- mar Press Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


44 1 o #

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 331

he had neither seen Spherical Madrigals nor ever discussed the issues of "graphic notation" with his teacher at the time he started to write his

circular scores.36 Moreover, by 1963, when Crumb composed his first

circular score (Night Music), circular scores had been written by Karlheinz Stockhausen (Refrain, 1959), Roland Kayn (Galaxis, 1962), and, in the same

"for bass clarinet or cello solo). Despite that,

year, Ladislav Kupkovic ("

Crumb insists that he reinvented the idea of circular notation in his own

way: "I knew Stockhausen's Refrain before I did any of my own circular

works, but his work was not a direct influence on me. I use a different

principle when drawing my scores."37

The symbolism of the archetypal figures that Crumb chose-circle, arch, cross, and spiral-relates to his definition of myths as "general-

izations or symbolic representations of the things that are happening or

have happened in history [emphasis mine]."38 Not a practicing believer,

Crumb explained the role of mythic and religious attributes in his works

as cultural symbols.39 Notably, every fourth movement (the 4th, 8th, and 12th) in Crumb's Makrokosmos I and II are also subtitled "Symbol."

These Crumb "symbols," or the works of symbolic notation, certainly

contribute to the "mythological expression" of his work. As is expected

of symbols, they puzzle the viewer, who is thus offered hints to a wide

array of meanings traditionally associated with these archetypal images.40

Performing from such a score means transforming it from "a thing in

itself" into "a thing for us," and thus inevitably presents a technical

problem. This is probably most easily resolved by memorizing the piece

in question. However, rotating the score during a performance would be

a special action to recall the mysterious movements of a shaman during

a ritual, using tools and gestures that are most extraordinary in the eyes

of the noninitiated. Some performers may prefer to cut the score and

paste it in an easily readable version. This act would only prove that the

world of mythic imagination, with its cyclic time and symbolic space,

is not exactly compatible with our world of linear reading, measured in

conventional categories of time and space.

The Mythologem of the Circle in Ancient Voices of Children

The figure of the circle in the central movement of The Ancient Voices

of Children (Example 2), subtitled Dance of the Sacred Life-Cycle, remains

multivalent in its meaning and open for interpretation, as the following

exchange illustrates. I asked the composer, "Is the circular notation [of

the Ancient Voices of Children] connected in your mind with the ideas of

reincarnation, changes of seasons, and other symbolic meanings that

different mythological traditions attach to the figure of a circle?"

He answered, "It is connected to all of those things."41

This universal gesture by the composer corresponds to the indefinite

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332 Adamenko

Example 2. George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children, a fragment from movement

3. @ 1971 C. F. Peters Corporation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

SOW, eaw?r kriur 'd matd f I A2 - . . : / ~ Z
SOW, eaw?r
matd f I
A2 -
/ ~ Z i;J II.EM , I , -L- fL d lr i l , ,'
A3 L44 Wo o-W t 496 ikC1 ~ f 60L toC pwdw
::.', ". DANCE OF THE "
kOM) a 1-;%.W
- -:ul?~ucu-c fkr? .- .1 , ,!
4044 catem
40& "IfPW4*ftfP"! w
j cii)~i

array of meaning offered by the mythologem of a circle. It may very

well include the psychoanalytical notion of "symbiotic orbit" between

a mother and a child attributed to Ancient Voices of Children by Ellen

Spitz.42 According to Jung, the rituals involving the mandala treated it

as "an instrument of contemplation

to aid concentration by narrow-

ing down the psychic field of vision and restricting it to the center."43 In

concordance with this description, Crumb emphasizes the special role of

the circularly notated section (Dance of the Sacred Life-Cycle) by making

it the centerpiece of the work's five-movement design.

The poetry of Garcia Lorca-rich with links to archaic myths-clear-

ly served as one of the poetic sources, perhaps the most important, of

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 333

Crumb's own ways of mythification.44 Often Lorca's poetry serves as a generative force; in particular, Crumb considered the words chosen for

the final song of Ancient Voices of Children to be "the creative germ" of

the whole compositional project.45 Crumb himself arranged the verbal

text of this work using selected verses from different Lorca poems. A

brief analysis of the resulting text reveals the multilayered symbolic,

allegoric, and, overall, mythological modus operandi.

In the context of the whole text, the first line, "The little boy was look-

ing for his voice," implies the one-to-one relationship of voice to soul. This voice/soul is silent:

I do not want it for speaking with:

I will make a ring of it

so that he may wear my silence

on his little finger

Here, the mythologem of a ring, also itself a circle, embraces the motives

of eternal recurrence and "echo," the idea that after someone's death his

or her voice continues to live.46 Consider, for example, the Greek myth of Echo, or Polidor, whose voice told the story of his murder after he died.47

Like the boy "Echo" in Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus, Lorca's child has

"come from so far away," "from the ridge of hard frost." The motive of the

child's death is present in both Mann's and Lorca's narratives.48 Crumb selected the text for the middle movement, "From where do you come, my love, my child?" from the song of Yerma in Lorca's tragedy Yerma (1934), also loaded with various archaic mythic motives.49 The last line,

"I will go very far

soul of a child," corresponds to the motive of the eternal recurrence of souls. It also invokes the concept of an immortal and unified world soul

(anima mundi), the image of which is also represented as a circle, as seen in Robert Fludd's Utriusque cosmi (Oppenheim, 1617-21). That the soul of

the dead may be preserved in the voice of a musical instrument is another

archetypal motive of many world mythologies.50 In Lorca's poem, "the

King of the crickets had it" (the child's voice), the soul was retained in the voice of the cricket. Prolonging the underlying symbolism, in some myths

the cricket or a cicada personified the deity of the dying afternoon (for

example, the Greek myth of the immortal ever-old Tithonus). The next

line of the text (also circular), "Each afternoon in Granada, a child dies each afternoon" (emphasis mine) is linked to the symbolism of both the cricket and the ring from the first verse. A cricket that makes music at sunset is associated with afternoon (allegorically, the afternoon of life, or old age).

Conversely, traditional allegory always presents the newborn child as

"the new day" or "morning of life." "A child dies each afternoon" might

also be understood allegorically: the morning of life dies, the afternoon of

life begins. The circle is now closed. While at the beginning of Crumb's

to ask Christ the Lord to give me back my ancient

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334 Adamenko

text arrangement the young boy tries to find his voice in the realm of the

"old" cricket, at the end there is a request "to give me back my ancient

soul of a child"-an inversion of the initial "young/old" opposition. The

symbolism of the whole text proves so pregnant with meaning, including

references to known mythic motives, that it supercedes itself as a literary

device and grows into a mythologem.

A comparison of Lorca's poems with Crumb's excerpted selections re-

veals the composer's concern with circularity. For example, in the fourth

movement, Crumb chose only these two lines that contain an inversion (found in the translation of the entire sixteen-line poem Gacela V (Del

niiio muetro), from De Divan del Tamarit of 1934):

Each afternoon in Granada,

a child dies each afternoon.

Crumb chose these lines as a subtitle for the movement. While inversion

structure presents circularity in its closed and singular form, refrain-

based structures express the idea of circularity in a different fashion-as an open and a repetitive cycle. According to the composer's instructions for the score, "both Spanish and English texts should be printed as part

of the program notes." The corresponding lines of the Spanish original

contain a refrain-like repetition:

Todas las tardes en Granada,

Todas las tardes se muere un ni-no.

The idea of repetition is also the governing principle of the musical form in the central movement of Ancient Voices: the "circle music" is to be

repeated three times, accompanied by an ostinato figure on the percus- sion. Clearly, Crumb identifies the idea of circularity with the idea of

repetition. Notably, Lorca's poems-the source of Crumb's inspiration

for many of his works-are, in general, rich with repetitions, refrains,

and symmetrical "concentric" inversions. One example is found in Ga-

zela X (De la huida). Crumb borrowed the first five lines for the second

movement of Ancient Voices of Children. In Lorca's poem, lines 4 and 5 reappear in inversion as 14 and 15:

(4) Muchas veces me he perdido por el mar, (5) Como me pierdo en el coraz6n de algunos nin6s.

(14) Como me pierdo en el coraz6n de algunos nin6s, (15) me he perdido muchas veces por el mar

Crumb realizes the combinatorial idea (compare Lorca's lines 4 and

15) on the level of musical form and large-scale structure. The beginning

of the first movement contains several elements that return at the end

of the last movement. They reappear either unchanged (the sextuplet

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 335

phrase marked fffz-see Examples 3a and 3b), in retrograde (the last motive-Examples 3c and 3d), or transposed (the repetition of a single

pitch C sharp in the first phrase of the work that becomes C natural at

the end).

Example 3. Fragments from George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children. ? 1971 C.

F. Peters Corporation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

a. From movement 1

b. From the last movement

c. E ndingpofmthe-ast-movemen

Soy ;st.

Bg ~ ~ ~ ~


c. Ending of the last movement

------,t-1 ~ j~CIt?.

(Lmor 1i. ) i

(Mart d;stknt)


X&-- 0-~

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336 Adamenko

d. Soprano phrase from movement 1

The last movement contains the recurring phrase of the oboe; this constitutes a recapitulation of somewhat similar material in the first

movement, in the section Dances of the Ancient Earth. Thus Crumb forms concentric circles on the macro level of structure. Example 4 shows a cer-

tain quality of roundness (which may also be defined as quasi-symmetry)

present on the level of pitch organization within the third movement. Crumb establishes local tonal centers by either frequent repetition or

longer duration, or accentuation of certain pitches. Their arrangement is

based on the principle of recurrence of some pitch classes, of which the

Example 4. Recurring pitch classes that serve as local tonal centers in movement 3 of Ancient Voices of Children. ? 1971 C. E Peters Corporation. All rights reserved.

Used by permission




m.4 .


B 123


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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 337

most prominent is D sharp, but with C and G sharp also recurring." An-

other instance of circular/symmetric structuring occurs at the beginning

of the last movement. Crumb notated the initial segment as a separate

episode (Example 5a), which contains six chords; of these six, chords one and six are identical in pitch content (Example 5b), as are chords two and five (Example 5c). Chords three and four (Example 5d) each

contain two tritones a half-step apart from each other, another instance

of symmetry.

Though symmetry and circularity of structure are present in the other

movements, the central movement-the one that employs circular nota-

tion-is most distinctive in this respect. Here, not only the pitch materials,

but more important, the elements of sound and dynamics-Crumbian

primary means of expression52-are also structured circularly/symmetri-

cally. The ostinato pattern of the percussion comes with a characteristic

Example 5. George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children. @ 1971 C. E Peters Corpora-

tion. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

a. Six symmetrically organized chords at the beginning of the final movement

iS (brbS5 b,aL,-s) (at ;, Gisp. f~ ~ Crb ! --- 3 --, v. CYM
iS (brbS5 b,aL,-s) (at ;,
Crb ! --- 3 --, v.
8 borbcrS (I=?c. ,,;b-.)
(.50o) z _
Hdd "
.-L4_A. " "
- &,_
-- -- ---- - --
I,, ctre c
<'Pe - Sempre) r
v2h:. :-------
--- t _- -
SCI~t IRIIZ =4t'1?4*_r
4%FI -d =1 I

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338 Adamenko

b. Chords 1 and 6

c. Chords 2 and 5

d. Chords 3 and 4



comment in the score: "Make gradual crescendo to midpoint of circle

music (B2), then a gradual diminuendo to last measure. The whispering

progresses gradually to shouting, then back to whispering." This crescen-

do-decrescendo structure (see Example 6)-explicitly symmetrical-is

yet another version of the circle that is visualized on the same page of

the score. It is one archetype that is conveyed through multifarious ap-

pearances-verbal, visual, audible-and through structural and formal aspects. This archetype is recurrent and cyclic, fixed, yet variable. It

evokes the structural characteristics of mythic time, as it also resonates

with Crumb's philosophical concept of the "timelessness of time."53

The segments (or "phrases," as Crumb calls them) of circle-music vary

in the Dance of the Sacred Life-Cycle with each new circle; this is reflected in

the composer's labels Al, A2, and the like. This second type recalls ritual

reenactment of the precedent, repeated each time with modifications.

The composer employs varied rather than literal repetition, applying the

same principle to the form of the whole third movement. He repeats the

transposed version of the soprano's first motive (G sharp-A-D sharp),

but not the initial motive itself, in the last measure.

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 339

Example 6. George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children, symmetrical crescendo-de- crescendo structure of dynamics in movement 3. O 1971 C. F. Peters Corporation.

All rights reserved. Used by permission.

(mtp r.epofi. Z-0moe sawit Fk /wt l sa~ .1of 6" " o.? - " -----
(mtp r.epofi. Z-0moe sawit Fk /wt l sa~ .1of 6"
" o.? - "
Ostin -O: t.mpo
.e , N9
,,.;eat -
a.=, *-4? "0 Ku l
t 7* -?I rlrrU-? .
L - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - cre"4ml lb *;Jpw;0wF c?r mo

The connotation of wholeness-associated with both the mytholo-

gem of the circle and the mythologem of the world tree-reveals itself

on the level of pitch organization as all twelve pitch classes are present

here. Crumb creates a sound world where all available "niches" of the

chromatic universe of music are present and co-exist within one short

movement. Example 7 contains a chart demonstrating this. The num-

bers in the left column indicate segments, or phrases of music that are divided by rests or by means of "graphic notation" in Crumb's score (as

he does not use standard measures). The pitch classes that-due to their frequency, prolonged rhythmic value or accent-function as local tonal

centers within each segment are notated in the chart as whole notes. The

chart, read from top to bottom, corresponds to the temporal progress of

the piece. The connecting lines between identical pitch classes indicate

their continuity. The recurring pitch classes provide inner coherence to

this picture of chromatic "totality." Crumb never uses all twelve pitches

simultaneously; rather he utilizes various segments of the chromatic


In Ghost Dance, two interlocking tritones (A-D sharp and G-C sharp)

occur in various forms throughout the piece. The pitch organization in this movement may be described as permutations of the fixed ele- ments-a whole step, a tritone, and a major third-as a single idea. This

uniformity is in line with traditional mythic thought, which perceived

the world as made from a finite number of elements (such as fire, wa-

ter, earth, and air), reappearing in various combinations. In weaving

his musical fabric, Crumb utilizes permutations of the same intervallic constructions. They reappear multiple times in inverted and transposed

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340 Adamenko

Example 7. A chart demonstrating the twelve pitch classes used in Dance of the

Sacred Life-Cycle.











forms. For example, sevenths, ninths, and tritones appear in Dance of the

Sacred Life-Cycle (Example 8 demonstrates permutations of sevenths and


Yet another attempt at "wholeness" may be seen in Crumb's polymo-

dality. In the first movement, for example, whole-tone modality is com-

plemented by chromatic modality. Namely, a collection of three whole

steps, divided by a major and a minor third, is gradually built during

the soprano's initial four phrases: the third and the fourth phrases of that

solo outline the collection, in ascending order, G-A-C sharp-D sharp-F

sharp-G sharp. At the end of the soprano solo, chromatic intervals are

introduced-an augmented sixth (ascending, F-D sharp), an augmented

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 341

Example 8. Permutations of sevenths and ninths in Dance of the Sacred Life-Cycle.





m.9 ending, Soprano


>L -reprise

M.7 M.7



m.3 "




m.5 n

El. piano

m.6, .

E12 'e-


octave (descending, D sharp-D), and a diminished octave (descending,

B flat-B). As instruments enter, the whole-tone idea is retained in the

form of a drone (electric piano), and the chromatic idea is continued in

the harp part, which contains two pairs of pitch classes that are a half-

step apart (F sharp, G, D, and E flat). The instrumental parts complement each other chromatically, as they contain three pairs of pitch classes that are a half-step apart from each other (A flat and G; F sharp and G; A flat

and A).

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342 Adamenko

Numerology in Black Angels

In his electric string quartet, Crumb establishes Jungian "mythic order,"

based first on intuitive and then on more conscious incarnations of the

archetypal numbers 7 and 13, which corresponds to the neo-mythological

"conscious appropriation of an unconscious discovery": "When I was

writing Black Angels, it occurred to me that these numbers appeared all

the time in my sketches, and that was when I decided to make use of


Dolly Kessner claimed that number 7 (represented by seven half-

steps, or a perfect fifth) here symbolically represents "God-Life," while

13 (half-steps, or a minor ninth) stands for "Devil-Death."55 On the other

hand, Crumb himself thus decoded his association between the number

7 and the tritone: "In Black Angels I used a tritone, which corresponds to

number 7."56 During the interview at Rutgers University, the composer

drew a sketch illustrating what he later called the "basic sound," or the "tritonal axis of the piece""57 (Example 9). The contradiction between a double association of 7 as both a tritone (with its historically notorious

"bad" intervallic ethos) and a perfect fifth (with its culturally rooted

connotation of "good" intervallic ethos) is only apparent, for the number

7 is applicable to interval calculation in two ways-expressing either a

number of half steps, or the pitch names involved. From Example 9 it is

clear that Crumb has used the latter to assign the number 7 to F sharp

on the sketch, while a subtraction 13 - 7 still gives 6 as the expression of

the tritone's intervallic size. This multivalence of associations is likely

to be an intended effect on Crumb's part in the general equilibrium-like

atmosphere of this work. In the foreword to the score Crumb indicates

that "an important pitch element in the work-ascending D-sharp, A

and E--

symbolizes the fateful numbers 7-13." Based on the num-

ber of half-steps, the tritone D-sharp-A corresponds to 6, and the fifth

A-E-to 7, while the sum of these two numbers results in 13, which is

also a standard numerical expression for a minor ninth (in this case, D

sharp to E) as a minor second (1) plus an octave (12).

The essential difference between mathematical operations in the mod-

Example 9. Facsimile of Crumb's sketch illustrating the "tritonal axis" associated

with the numbers 7 and 13, in Black Angels.



--2-x "".?-



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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 343

ern sense and the operations with numbers in myths lies in the fact that

in myths each number, or a combination of numbers, carries a unique

and tangible "ethos," meaning, or a mode; as a result of this, formulas

such as "13 times 7" and "7 times 13" would never be equal, while in the

abstract science of mathematics these only appear opposite, but in fact

are equal in the resulting value. Crumb's program in the preface to Black

Angels contains a diagram clearly demonstrating this type of operation:

"13 times 7 and 7 times 13" of the first movement is the direct opposition

of "7 times 13 and 13 times 7" of the last. How is this opposition realized

in the inner structure of both movements?

The first movement contains bracketed groups of notes with numbers

under them that indicate the number of repeats of that group (Example

10). The entire movement is made of quintuplets, each of which equals

one second, as indicated in the author's remark in the score, or an eighth

note (MM = 60). Thus each labeled number indicates duration in seconds,

as well as the number of repeats. The total number of eighth notes in

the movement equals 91--precisely the mathematical sum arrived at by multiplying the two fatal numbers, 7 and 13. Since an eighth-note beat unit equals one second, the total sounding time ideally should also be 91

seconds. However, performances vary in this respect; here lies the natu-

ral borderline between the numerologically ideal model and the actual

reality of a performance. Number 7 predominates among all bracketed indications of the first movement-namely, this number is met here 6

times. (This seems to be not accidental, for both 6 and 7 are significant

in the pitch formula of the piece.)

Let us compare this to the last movement (Example 11). Including the "bridge" from the previous movement-a sustained high d in the cello part, marked 13 seconds-and excluding the Coda that begins on

page 9 of the score (Sarabanda de la muerte oscura), this movement (13.

Threnody III: Night of the Electric Insects) contains an approximately

similar number of units, or seconds, if we apply the same rule of count-

ing bracketed groups as in the first movement. New here, however, are

eight groups, each labeled 13 seconds. Their overlap makes calculation

of the total time less precise. Nevertheless, there are clearly three groups

of 13 seconds each in the first segment (marked "disembodied, incor- poreal"). Two of these overlap only slightly, with the overall duration

of the segment resulting in a little less than 39. The similar brackets of

the second segment (marked "vibrant, intense!") carry the sacramental

numbers 7-3-4-7 (totaling in 21 seconds), which overlap by one group

(= 1 second) with the final segment. The latter consists of three slightly

overlapping 13-second groups. Thus, adding <39, 20, and <39, we obtain

a number that is less than 98, which approximates to the number 91 of

the first movement. This gives a justification to Crumb's labeling both

movements 1 and 13 in a similar yet oppositional fashion ("13 times 7

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Vibrant. intense! JG60 S5emlr s ul vpont e lsse -- irpr e soulj a ':
Vibrant. intense! JG60
S5emlr s ul vpont e lsse --
irpr e soulj a
L5j 3
31-) t~P' wi pr~l49 ois ocd

, (Sempre ; m.) _

Example 10. George Crumb, Black Angels, opening fragment. ? 1972 C. E Peters Corporation. All rights




if ~ MMMMprLS Hsu Y-l w-tub'?



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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 345

Example 11. George Crumb, Black Angels, movement 13. ? 1972 C. F. Peters Cor-

poration. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

1-f - 11"J , r o941 . ' " 133 '-: - ;~~ i-r~rJ t-_
1-f - 11"J , r o941
;~~ i-r~rJ t-_ ---'"?- '. ,
7 3 447
- IW'13
41 -f-Ip~ p~rgr~t; !
- --
LFF t tp+"-- -~ ~
Ity no r-?VQr i,.i* q?;16
ch,,- ,i rt Sa hi .

and 7 times 13" versus "7 times 13 and 13 times 7"), based on the polari-

ties of their inner structures. While there were no 13-second groups in

the first movement, in movement 13, on the contrary, Crumb uses many

instances of such groupings. Likewise, what served as an opening of the

entire piece (a structure 7-3-4-7) appears as the central internal segment

of movement 13. Conversely, the tritone-based glissandos that initially followed the four opening groups of the first movement, now serve as the opening of the last movement. The structure 7-3-4-7 is, of course,

numerically invertible by itself as 7-7-7: its core contains numbers 3

and 4, surrounded on both sides by their sum (7). Numbers 3, 4, and 7

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346 Adamenko

are considered the most sacred in many world mythologies, where they

possess universal meanings of dynamics (odd number 3), stability, four points of a compass (even number 4), and the union of the opposites in

number 7.

The central movement (7), which Crumb designates "the numerologi-

cal basis of the entire work,"58 corresponds to the "axis of symmetry"

role of number 7 in the simple row of 13 numbers:

12345 6 (7) 89 1112 13

The puzzling subtitle for this movement combines the numbers 7 and 13

in a repetitive manner: "7 times 7 and 13 times 13." The movement opens with a tritone in each of the parts repeated 7 times. In the context hinted

at by the subtitle, the tritone is apparently represented by the number 7. The formula "13 times 13" applies to the number of utterances of the

word "thirteen" pronounced in different languages-namely, it appears

3 times uttered by 3 performers (total 9 utterances) on page 5 of the

score, and one time at the end of the movement by all four participants

(9 + 4 = 13). This centerpiece is framed by two movements that also

contain uniform numbers instead of juxtaposing them: "13 over 13" in the Sarabanda and "13 under 13" in the Pavana. Formulations that place

numbers "over" or "under" each other are also mythologically rooted;

as Alexey Losev noted, the mythological perception of number does not

see in it merely a notion, but a physical object, or "thing."59 Crumb's

"physical" manipulations with numbers are evident in texture, tessitura,

and rhythm groupings. For example, in movement 2 (marked "7 in 13"), a passage consistently reappearing in the first violin part consists of 13

notes. Within these, a group of seven is clearly marked as a "centerpiece"

(Example 12).

In movement 3 (marked "13 over 7"), 13 high-pitched notes taken as

harmonics appear after and (in terms of pitch) over a 7-second drone.

In movement 5, the formula "13 times 7" refers to the number of occur-

rences of 7 as part of a time signature. Each such appearance indicates a shift in time signature: 7/32 to 7/16 to 7/64, and so on, including a

polymetric combination of 7/8 and 7/16.

By indicating "7 and 13" in movement 4, Crumb suggests the percep-

tion of a perfect fifth a-e as 7, and the minor ninth d sharp-e as 13, since

these two intervals recur many times throughout this movement both harmonically and melodically, including the opening sonority. Thus the

Example 12. George Crumb, Black Angels, a rhythmic group in the first violin

part of movement 2.


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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 347

opposition of these two numbers is expressed here through intervallic


Crumb's numerology remains in the vein of an earlier modernist

rendezvous with numbers-especially that of Schoenberg, who feared

the number 13 most."6 By returning the original wealth of meaning to

numbers, Crumb has thus contributed to the process of remythification

described by the Tartu-Moscow school.


Critics have long noted Crumb's desire to create a synthesis of diverse

media and stylistic components, comparing it with Wagner's Gesam-

kunstwerk;61 however, his tendency toward the integration of diverse

elements has never been perceived as a tool for mythification-that is,

as an attempt to return to the mythic "whole" and undivided state. His

syncretism of artistic media is apparent in, among other things, his tribute

to the newly established conventions of "instrumental theater"62 of the

last several decades of the twentieth century: performers marching syn-

chronously with the music they perform, pronouncing nonsense syllables

(both of these features appear in Crumb's "Processionals for Orchestra"

Echoes of Time and the River of 1967), and other elements. However, this

composer's place is unique. The imagery of Crumb's work is a result

of his fantasy-like, quasi-surrealistic, highly associative perception that

relies on the visual domain and poetic impulses. As we saw, in the Dance

of the Sacred Life-Cycle from Ancient Voices, the use of circular graphics

parallels the text (selectively fashioned by the composer)-visual in par-

allel with verbal. In addition, music, which is structured accordingly, also

evokes the same mythologem. The use of many different domains, or

media types, here seems to serve the goal of creating an all-embracing

totality and is, indeed, a channel of mythification. In myths, a symbolic

representation of all major elements of the cosmic "whole" required a ref- erence to the natural elements, such as fire, water, and earth. In Crumb's world these natural "elements" come into view as the various domains

of modern artistic expression. In the Dance of the Sacred Life-Cycle, these

appear as the sprechstimme dialogue of soprano and boy soprano, theatri-

cal reading, purely instrumental sound, mixed vocal and instrumental

sound, spatial effects, choreography (optional dance or mime; compare

to the "choreography" of four conductors in the Star-Child), and the

visual (for the viewers of the "circle music" in the calligraphy of the

scores). The graphic notation may be viewed as Crumb's version of the

tone-painting tradition-the visual in association with formal design

that together correspond to the meaning of the verbal text. This is most evident, perhaps, in Eleven Echoes ofAutumn, where the "broken arches"

are depicted visually. Crumb's fascination with syncretism explains this

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348 Adamenko

affinity for Lorca's poetry, which is "musical" by itself. The blending

of different artistic domains in Lorca's poetics is remarkable, and the

aspects of his personality as a musician and an artist must have played

a role in this.63

An important aspect of Crumb's syncretism is the use of phoneme mu-

sic (a term introduced by Stravinsky)64-a phenomenon that extends

the properties of both words and music through nonsense syllables, or babbling. By using so-called extended vocal techniques, Crumb paid his tribute to the "New Vocalism" trend, seen in works such as Boulez's Pli

selon pli (1957-62); Berio's Circles (1960), Visage (1961), and Sinfonia (1968);

Pousseur's Phonemes pour Cathy (1966); and more. The trend developed from the work of the Second Viennese School composers, Scriabin, and

early twentieth-century avant-garde composers.65 Crumb's voice in this

chorus is distinguishable thanks to its semantic transparency and openly

mythic undertones. His case serves as a model for interpretation in the

examination of the mythic babbling of the New Vocalism.66 Crumb espe- cially seems to restate the mythic function of the recollection of origins

in utilizing emotive untranslatable syllables. On the opening page of his Ancient Voices of Children, hums and repeated figures, such as "a-i-u,"

"kaumm," and "ue-ai," express a primordial searching for words-the

idea echoed in the first line of text: "A little boy was looking for his voice."

As Spitz has remarked, the child from Ancient Voices "is too young to form

words."67 The primitive babbling may be interpreted as standing for the

childhood of mankind, or the early prereflective stage of culture. Giam-

battista Vico (1668-1744) compared the mythological epoch to childhood

in the history of humankind. From this perspective, it also makes sense

to emphasize, as Spitz does as a psychoanalyst, that in Ancient Voices of

Children "ancient" is equated with "the earliest in life."68 Thus Crumb's

meaningless syllables serve the purpose of recollecting the origins. While

for an archaic myth-maker, mythic time served this function, for Crumb,

music itself is the mythic place of origin: "I feel intuitively that music

must have been the primitive cell from which language, science, and

religion originated."69


Leo Normet argued that "archaism and timelessness are inevitable pre- suppositions for the mythical in music."70 Although the simple act of

incorporating a primitive idiom into a musical work can hardly make

the work "mythic," the interpretation of "the mythic" as "ancient," or

"primary" is justified by the notion of myth as timeless (i.e., first estab-

lished in the mythic time) "precedent" or "model." In this particular

sense Normet's formula for the mythic in music may be useful.

The understanding of "mythic" as "archaic" is crucial to a study of

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 349

Crumb's work; for the composer, these terms are synonymous (as evident

from the epigraph to this article). Moreover, critics and colleagues have

commonly characterized Crumb's world as "primeval and atavistic,"71

and his work as "modern music that drips with an ineffable antiquity."72

A manifestation of this is Crumb's use of the timeless "universals of

music." In particular, his palindromes and arch-forms have long been

noted and justly attributed to Bart6k's direct influence on Crumb, many

times confirmed by the latter.73 In mythic terms, Bart6k's model is but a

modern reactualization of a proto-structure, a sample of how the time- less idea of symmetry is realized in our own time.

Some scholars claim that the search for the "universals of music" is

possible only on the level of animal sounds-the sounds of nature.74

From this point of view, Crumb's insect drones might be considered his

attempt to search for the "universals." "Insect drone" pertains to natural

perception; however, in Crumb it is moderated by cultural precedents,

namely, Lorca's poetry and Bart6k's "night music." Regarding the "insect

sounds" in Black Angels, Crumb said: "it was by extension of Bart6k's

insect music, maybe."75 The image of insect drones as a symbol of primal

energy is found in Lorca's texts. Rupert Allen considered Lorca's early poem Cicada! as offering the "mythic perspective of the Macrocosm."76

Incidentally, Allen's description of the cicada sounds in connection with

Lorca's poem as "electric

charging the whole atmosphere

on a hot

summer afternoon

with a frantic intensity" matches Crumb's subtitles

in the scores of Black Angels ("electric insects"), Dream Sequence ("as an afternoon in late summer"), and Makrokosmos III ("Music for a Summer


In the interview at Rutgers, Crumb pointed to the link between the archaic and the mythic in this exchange. I asked him, "You have a piece

entitled Myth.77 Did you think of any particular myth, or does it refer to

myth in general?"

His response: "I was thinking of ancient, prehistoric music, the pri-

meval sounds like the droning sounds."78

Here, Crumb seems to perceive the drone as one of the archaic layers

that still survive in musical culture; this parallels the way in which mythic thought is still a part of contemporary culture. In other words, it is mu-

sic-in certain natural forms, such as drones-that still carries the quality of being "ancient" or "primeval," and thus assumes mythic qualities. The

issue of the "origins of music" inevitably rises here.79 Although it can

hardly ever be proven, droning is presumably one of the earliest forms

of music and thus can assist Crumb in his quest for mythification, for

the musical embodiments of "primitive" or "ancient" qualities. Through archaism, as well as through syncretism and numerology, music, along

with the other arts, plays a role in the process of mythification, providing

artistic proof for expressions of primal "truth."

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350 Adamenko


I am grateful to the composer for the interview quoted in the epigraph, the complete text

of which is available in the appendix to my Ph.D. dissertation, "Neo-Mythologism in

Twentieth-Century Music," Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., 2000.


1. Donald Henahan identified a "darkly magical mood" in "Ancient Voices of Children,"

New York Times, Nov. 2, 1970; Richard Steinitz pointed to the "extraordinarily haunting

and intoxicating magic of [

119 (1978): 844.

] sound" he heard in Crumb's music-The Musical Times

2. Robert Moevs, review of "Music for a Summer Evening" (Makrokosmos III), Musical

Quarterly 62 (1976): 302; . Robert Evett, review of Makrokosmos I, Washington Star-News,


3. Questioned about his circular notation, Crumb replied, "Every composer should be

permitted an occasional flight of whimsy!"; from "Interview: George Crumb / Robert

Shuffett," in George Crumb: Profile of a Composer, ed. Don Gillespie (New York: C. F. Peters,

1986), 37.

4. Crumb's characterization of the use of phonetic language in several of his works.

See Mark Alburger, "Day of the Vox Crumbae: An Ancient, Angelic Interview with the

Phantom Gondolier," Twentieth Century Music 4 (1997): 14.

5. See, for example, Richard Bass's meticulous "Sets, Scales, and Symmetries: The Pitch-

Structural Basis of George Crumb's Makrokosmos I and II," Music Theory Spectrum 13 (1991):

1-20; and Thomas R. de Dobay, "The Evolution of Harmonic Style in the Lorca Works of

Crumb," Journal of Music Theory 27 (1984): 89-111.

6. The term "Neo-mythologism" was coined in Meletinsky's Poetika Mifa (Moscow:

Nauka, 1976). The English translation replaced it with the term "re-mythification." Eleazar M. Meletinsky, The Poetics ofMyth, trans. Guy Lanoue and Alexandre Sadetsky (New York:

Garland, 1998).

7. On the role of repetitiveness in archaic mythic texts, see, in particular, The Naked Man,

Introduction to a Science of Mythology 4 (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 673.

8. Cited in Pandora Hopkins's translation from her critique of Levi-Strauss's theory, "The Homology of Music and Myth: Views of Levi-Strauss on Musical Structure," Ethnomusicol- ogy 21 (1977): 252.

9. Vladimir N. Toporov, "K proiskhozhdeniyu nekotorykh poeticheskikh simvolov:

Paleoliticheskaya epokha," in Rannieformy isskustva [Early Art Forms] (Moscow: Iskusstvo,

1972), 79.

10. Transformations of a mythical hero is one example of the variability characteristic

of myth: see Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Uni- versity Press, 1968). Levi-Strauss, from a structuralist perspective, describes the variability

of mythic thought in The Naked Man, 675.

11. Examples of symmetrical structures in myths are cited in "Rapports de symetrie

entre rites et mythes de peuples voisins," in The Translation of Culture: Essays to E. E. Evans-

Pritchard, ed. T. O.Beidelman (London: Tavistock, 1971), 161-78.

12. Zara Minz, "O nekotorykh 'neomifologicheskikh' tekstakh v tvorchestve russkikh

simvolistov" [About some "neo-mythological" texts in the works of Russian symbolists]

in Tvorchestvo Bloka i russkaya kultura XX veka: Uchenye zapiski Tartusskogo Universiteta, Blokovskii sbornik 3 (Tartu: Tartu University Press, 1979), 95.

13. Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974),


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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 351

14. Alexey I. Kobzev, "Metodologia kitaiskoi klassicheskoi filosofii: numerologia i pro-

tologika [The Methodology of Chinese classical philosophy: numerology and protologic],

Ph.D. diss., Moscow University, 1988, 21.

15. Vladimir Toporiov, "Chisla," [Numbers], in Mify narodov mira [The myths of the

world's peoples], vol. 2, ed. Sergei Tokarev (Moscow: Bol'shaya Rossiysskaya Enziklope-

diya, 1997), 631.

16. Carl G. Jung, "Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle," in The Structure

and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2d ed., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Collected Works of C. G. Jung 8,

Bollingen Series (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977), 457.


Poetika mifa, 3rd ed. (Moscow: Vostochnaja literatura, 2000), 297, my translation.


Plato in Phaedo refers to Socrates' testimony that myths are to be sung as healing

charms. David A. White notes this in Myth and Metaphysics in Plato's "Phaedo" (Selinsgrove,

Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 1989), 18.

19. George Crumb, personal interview; for complete text, see the appendix to my Ph.D.

dissertation, "Neo-Mythologism in Twentieth-Century Music," Rutgers University, New

Brunswick, N.J., 2000, 307 (hereafter cited as Interview at RU). In a telephone conversation

(Jan. 14, 2001) Crumb also specified that one of his books on Jung addressed mythology. Crumb recalled reading this book in his early career.

20. Rupert Allen draws upon Jung and his theory of archetypes when discussing Lorca's

poetry in The Symbolic World of Federico Garcia Lorca (Albuquerque: University of New

Mexico Press, 1972), 54.

21. From the commentary to the recording: Elektra Nonesuch 979149-2, 1975.

22. Carl Jung, "Approaching the Unconscious," in Man and His Symbols (New York:

Ferguson, 1964), 55.


Interview at RU, 305-6.


Ibid., 307.


Ibid., 306-7.


Ibid. In a phone conversation on March 14, 2003, Crumb confirmed that he has never

seen an Indian Ghost Dance that has served as a prototype for this movement, and added,

"I do that a lot-using something that I have never seen myself, but read about it."

27. Mark Alburger, "Day of the Vox Crumbae: An Ancient, Angelic Interview with the

Phantom Gondolier," Twentieth-Century Music 4 (1997): 16.

28. Carl Jung, Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice (New York: Pantheon Books,

1968), 138.

29. Carl Jung, "The Psychology of the Child Archetype," in Carl Gustav Jung and Carl

Ker6nyi, Essays on a Science of Mythology (1949; Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press,

1971), 83.

30. Ibid., 82-83.

31. Interview with Robert Shuffett, in Profile of a Composer, ed. Gillespie, 35.

32. Carl Jung, Mandala Symbolism, Collected Works of C. G. Jung 9, pt. I (Princeton. N.J.:

Princeton University Press, 1972), 4-5.

33. Phone conversation, Feb. 16, 1999.

34. See Bartolome de Pareja, Musica Practica, ed. Clemente Terni (Madrid: Joyas Biblio-

graficas, 1982), 294.

35. Compendium musicae latino-germanucum des Adam Gumpelshaimer, cited in

Robert Haas, "Die Musik des Barocks," in Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft, ed. Ernst Bucken

(Potsdam: Academische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1931), 121.


Interview at RU, 300; phone conversation, Feb. 16, 1999.


Interview at RU, 300.


Ibid., 307.


Ibid., 302.


On the meanings of these figures see Jack Tresidder, Symbols and Their Meanings

(London: Friedman and Fairfax, 2000).

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352 Adamenko



Interview at RU, 305.

See Spitz, "Ancient Voices of Children: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation," Current Mu-

sicology 60 (1985): 7-21.

Interpretation," Current Mu- sicology 60 (1985): 7-21. 43. 44. Jung, Mandala Symbolism, 72. The mythic features



Jung, Mandala Symbolism, 72.

The mythic features of Lorca's poetry have long been noticed in literary criticism. In

particular, Edward F. Stanton wrote, "Lorca's poetry carries us back to a mythic universe";

The Tragic Myth: Lorca and "Cante Jondo" (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1978),


45. Liner notes to Ancient Voices of Children, no. 979149-2, Electra Nonesuch, 1975.

46. The echo motif has always been very popular in music; one of the more recent

examples can be found in Babbitt's Philomel (1964). In Ancient Voices of Children, the echo

effect is also prominent. Crumb wrote, "Perhaps the most characteristic vocal effect in Ancient Voices is produced by the mezzo-soprano singing a kind of fantastic vocalise into an amplified piano, thereby producing a shimmering aura of echoes." Notes to a CD

recording of Ancient Voices of Children, no. 979149-2, Electra Nonesuch, 1975.

47. "Polidor," in Mifologicheskii slovar [The dictionary of mythology], ed. Eleazar Mele-

tinsky (Moscow: Sovetskaya Enziklopedia, 1991), 445.

48. This archetype also relates to the group of myths about the heavenly world where

the angels or the holy youths live. In general, the mythologem of a child derives from the

myths about the holy child as forefather of mankind. On the mythic aspects of "Child-

Symbol" in Lorca see chapter 3 of Rupert C. Allen, The Symbolic World of Federico Garcia

Lorca (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972), 159-73.

49. See Robert Lima, "Immolations: Rites of Sacrifice on the Stages of Federico Garcia

Lorca," Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 15 (2001): 33-48; see also his "Toward the

Dionysiac: Pagan Elements and Rites in Yerma," Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 4

(1990): 63-82.

50. In the myths of Tukano and Aravaks, the main male deity, Yurupari, was burned,

and from his ashes grew a palm tree. From the bark of that tree, flutes and trumpets were

made, which preserved Yurupari's voice. Mifologicheskii slovar [The dictionary of mythol-

ogy], 647.

51. Measure number indications are not based on bar lines; I chose to indicate as measures

those segments of the score that are separated by the breaks in the staff. Letter indications

of other segments (A123, B123, and C123) are present in Crumb's score. Two segments of

notation (harp and electric piano, "measure" six and section E 1, 2) are excluded from the

chart, because rapid glissandi along with percussion do not allow for actual pitch percep-


52. Crumb analyst Steven Chatman summarized an established view on Crumb's fore-

most concern for sonority writing that "Crumb seems less concerned with any elaborate

development of pitch and harmony," and that, in some works, "vertical or harmonic analy-

sis tends to be unprofitable"; "The Element of Sound in 'Night of the Four Moons,'" in

George Crumb, ed. Gillespie, 63.

53. The composer's own expression from the Notes to Makrokosmos I.

54. Interview at RU, 304-5.

55. Dolly Kessner, "Structural Coherence in Late Twentieth-Century Music," Ph.D. diss.,

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1992, 114.

56. Interview at RU, 304-5.

57. Phone conversation, June 5, 2001.

58. See Crumb's footnote to the diagram in the score.

59. Alexey Losev (1893-1988), a distinguished Russian mythographer and a historian of

antiquity. See his Antichnyi kosmos i sovremennaya nauka [The ancient cosmos and modern

science] (Moscow: by the author, 1927), 27.

60. Colin Sterne demonstrated how Schoenberg seriously believed in "lucky" and "un-

lucky" numbers and their impact on his personal fate and his works. For example, Schoen-

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George Crumb's Channels of Mythification 353

berg considered 3 extremely good, and 13 extremely bad. Arnold Schoenberg, the Composer

as Numerologist (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1993), 1-4.

61. Suzanne Mac Lean, "George Crumb, American Composer and Visionary," in Profile

of a Composer, ed. Gillespie, 25.

62. The term instrumental theater appears as early as in 1966 in an essay by Mauricio

Kagel, one of the phenomenon's principal proponents, and it has become widespread

in European literature on the music of the second half of the twentieth century. See Neue

Raum, Neue Musik: Gedanken zum Instrumentalen Theater, in Im Zenit der Moderne: Geschichte

und Dokumentation in vier Banded. Die Internationalen Ferienkurse fir Neue Musik Darmstadt,

1946-66 (Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1997), 253.

63. According to Lorca's biographers, he was trained as a classical pianist from a young

age; he is also known for his visual artwork. Edward F. Stanton writes that "with literature,

music constituted the most important activity of his life. The two arts were closely related

to each other throughout his career"; The Tragic Myth, ix.

64. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Expositions and Developments (Berkeley: University

of California Press, 1981), 121.

65. Scriabin used a vocalization of syllables for mixed choir, "E-a-kho-a," in the culmina-

tion of Prometheus. Glenn Watkins, who justly regards many diverse works that employ

"nonsense" syllables as one trend (the term New Vocalism is attributed to Berio), offers a

guide to research in this field: Soundings. Music in the Twentieth Century (New York: Schirmer,

1988), 605-22.

66. The idea of words and music being interrelated through myth has been discussed

both theoretically and in application to a particular style. See, for example, Jean-Paul Madou, "Langue, mythe, musique: Rousseau, Nietzsche, Mallarme, Levi-Strauss," in Lit-

terature et musique, ed. Raphael Celis (Bruxelles: Facultes Universitaires Saint-Lois, 1982),

75-109. Norbet Dressen acknowledged the special role of myth in Luciano Berio's approach

to text in Sprache und Musik bei Luciano Berio: Untersuchungen zu seinen Vokalkompositionen

(Regennsburg: Gustav Bosse, 1982), 21-22.

67. Spitz, "Ancient Voices of Children," 15.

68. Ibid.

69. Oliver Daniel, "George Crumb," brochure (New York: Broadcast Music, 1975), final


70. Leo Normet, "The Mythical in Non-Programmatic Music," in Musical Signification:

Essays in the Semiotic Theory and Analysis of Music, ed. Eero Tarasti (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1995), 560.

71. Richard Wernick, "George Crumb: Friend and Musical Colleague," in Profile of a

Composer, ed. Gillespie, 69.

72. Jamake Highwater, in Soho Weekly News, April 7, 1977, cited in Profile of a Composer,

ed. Gillespie, 33.

73. In a review of Judith Frigyesi, Bdla Bart6k and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest in JAMS

53 (2000): 190, David E. Schneider suggested that the seamless circularity of form found in

Bart6k's opera Bluebeard's Castle (1911) might have served as an origin for the arch forms

of the Fourth String Quartet (1928) and the Second Piano Concerto (1931).

74. See "The Necessity of and Problems with a Universal Musicology," in "Universals

in Music," a chapter in The Origins of Music, ed. Nils L. Wallin et al. (Cambridge, Mass.:

MIT Press, 2001): 473-80.

75. Alburger, "Day of the Vox Crumbae," 16. Bart6k initiated his special "night music"

genre in Musiques Nocturnes from the Out of Doors suite (1926), which involves chromatic

motives and cluster-chords. These are believed to represent, according to a memoir by

Bart6k's son, "the concert of frogs heard in peaceful nights": B6la Bart6k Jr., "Remember-

ing my Father, B6la Bart6k," The New Hungarian Quarterly 22 (1966): 14. The night music

theme continued in later Bart6k works through to the third movement of the Concerto for

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354 Adamenko

Orchestra; a specific example of "insect music" is "From the Diary of a Fly" no. 142 from vol. 6 of Mikrokosmos (1926-39).

76. Rupert C. Allen, The Symbolic World of Federico Garcia Lorca (Albuquerque: University

of New Mexico Press, 1972).

77. Piece No. 4 from Crumb's "Music for a Summer Evening" (Makrokosmos III) for two

amplified pianos and percussion (Peters, 1974).

78. Interview at RU, 307.

79. See The Origins of Music, ed. Wallin et al.

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