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George Crumb's 'American Songbook'

November 13, 2010 | 11:00 am


Despite having turned 81 less than three weeks ago, American composer George Crumb remains deeply absorbed in his craft. His latest long-term musical project is a seven-installment “American Songbook” for female voice, percussion quartet and amplified piano.

Originally intended to be on a much smaller scale (a single book of American songs for the composer’s daughter Ann, a Broadway actor and singer), it has taken on a life of its own and has grown seven-fold over the course of nine years; the last volume is due for completion in a few months.

Most of the featured songs in this mammoth project are the spirituals of African slaves, the congregational singing of the English settlers and songs of the Civil War -- songs that are still on the lips of the entire country. “These songs have been floating around in my head for decades,” explains Crumb “I guess it was time I confronted them head-on.”

Los Angeles will hear “River of Life (Songs of Joy and Sorrow) -– American Songbook No. 1” on Tuesday in a Green Umbrella performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall, starring soprano Tony Arnold and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, with the young French-Canadian conductor Jean-Michaël Lavoie.

For the full Arts & Books visit with the composer, click here.

--Delai Casadei


Photo: George Crumb with his dog, Yoda.

Credit: Bridge Records