Mark Gresham | 20 OCT 2022
This week Earpiece takes us back a decade to a concert by the Atlanta Chamber Players on May 22, 2012, at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern.
That program included this performance of George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae (“The Voice of the Whale”) by flutist Christina Smith, cellist Brad Ritchie, and pianist Paula Peace.
As its name implies, Vox Balaenae was inspired by whale songs. In the late 1960s, George Crumb heard a marine scientist’s audio recording of the sounds made by the humpback whale. In 1971, Crumb drew on these sounds as the inspiration for the piece. Vox Balaenae has eight movements: a Vocalise (“for the beginning of time”), a Sea Theme followed by five variations, and a Sea Nocturne (“for the end of time”).
But why are the musicians wearing masks? The composer explicitly calls for them in the score. Crumb intended the masks to symbolize the powerful impersonal forces of nature by effacing the sense of human projection, allowing the piece to present itself as a force of nature. ■
■ Atlanta Chamber Players: atlantachamberplayers.com