George Crumb

George Crumb was known for his experimental use of timbres and stunning manuscript scores. Many of his vocal works explore the rhetoric of American music, especially Apparition, which sets poems of Walt Whitman for voice and piano, as well as his American songbooks, which reimagine traditional American songs with a plethora of percussion instruments. Crumb had also set the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe ("The Sleeper" for mezzo soprano and piano) and Sara Teasdale (3 Early Songs).

Crumb also loved the poetry of Lorca, and many of his vocal works set Lorca’s texts.

Photo: George Crumb, Photo by Sabine Matthes, from the C. F. Peters Corporation, 2007

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    Born in Charleston, West Virginia, George Crumb studied at institutions throughout the United States (as well as Berlin), finishing his doctorate at the University of Michigan. His first teaching job was at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where his compositions began to garner attention, especially Night Music I (1963, for soprano, piano/celesta, and two percussionists).

    Crumb took a teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania in 1965 and remained there for 30 years. Crumb was very prolific during his time at Penn, setting the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca more often than any other poet. However, American poetry was also at the heart of his vocal works, such as Apparition (1979, Walt Whitman text) and The Sleeper (1984, Edgar Allan Poe text).

    While Crumb’s music is certainly experimental, his delicate use of timbre and echoing of American (and especially West Virginian) traditions makes it accessible to a wide audience. Towards the end of his life, Crumb explored American folk traditions more overtly in his music, with his American Songbooks. The American Songbooks set dozens of American folk and traditional songs using Crumb’s unique approach to sound and instrumentation.

    –Christie Finn

    Related Information



    Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 17

    (George Crumb)


    Christine Schäfer: My Art of Singing

    (George Crumb)


    Crazy Jane

    (George Crumb, David Leisner and John Musto)


    Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 13

    (George Crumb)


    Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 12

    (George Crumb)


    Voices of Our Time - Dawn Upshaw

    (William Bolcom, Ruth Crawford Seeger, John Harbison, George Crumb and Charles Ives)


    Ives: Songs | Crumb: Apparition

    (George Crumb and Charles Ives)


    Jan Degaetani & Gilbert Kalish

    (George Crumb)


    Sheet Music

    A Journey Beyond Time

    Composer(s): George Crumb

    Song(s): 1. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
    2. "Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho"
    3. "Steal Away"
    4. "Oh, a-Rock-a My Soul"
    5. The Pregnant Earth: A Psalm for Noontide (Instrumental Interlude)
    6. "Sit Down, Sister"
    7. "Nobody Knows de Trouble I See"
    8. "Go Down, Moses"
    9. "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"

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    George Crumb Sheet Music

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    The River of Life

    Composer(s): George Crumb

    Song(s): 1. "Shall We Gather At the River?"
    2. "Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?"
    3. "Amazing Grace!"
    4. "Give Me That Old Time Religion"
    5. Time is a Drifting River: A Psalm for Daybreak and Morning
    6. "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?"
    7. "One More River to Cross (Noah's Ark: A Humoresque)"
    8. "Nearer, My God to Thee"
    9. "Deep River"

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    The Winds of Destiny

    Composer(s): George Crumb

    Song(s): 1. "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory"
    2. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"
    3. "Lonesome Road"
    4. "Twelve Gates to the City"
    5. De Profundis: A Psalm for the Night-Wanderer (Instrumental Interlude)
    6. "All My Trials (Death's Lullaby)"
    7. "Go Tell it on the Mountain!"
    8. "The Enchanted Valley"
    9. "Shenandoah"

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    Unto the Hills

    Composer(s): George Crumb

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