George Crumb’s “Makrokosmos, Volume I” for solo amplified piano (1972)
is a landmark of 20th-Century piano literature. Taking its inspiration from Bela Bartok’s “Mikrokosmos”, and Claude Debussy’s Preludes, as well as “the darker side of Chopin” and “the child-like fantasy of early Schumann”, it is a masterwork that not only utilizes the full dynamic and expressive range of the piano played from the keyboard; Crumb masterfully creates an entirely new coloristic and tonal palette by making use of extended, inside-the-piano techniques. In addition, the pianist must chant, shout, sing, whistle, and moan like a ghost.
Crumb cites two beautiful lines of poetry as inspiration for this piece – one by the French mathematician Pascal: “The eternal silence of infinite space terrifies me”; the other by the German poet Rilke: “And in the nights the heavy earth is falling from all the stars down into loneliness. We are all falling. And yet there is One who holds this falling endlessly gently in his hands.”
There are twelve movements in this piece, which Crumb subtitles “Twelve Fantasy-Pieces after the Zodiac”.
Crumb’s music in general, but Makrokosmos, Volume I in particular, has been a source of tremendous artistic inspiration for me throughout my musical life.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the composition of Makrokosmos, Volume I, I have commissioned twelve composers – Vera Ivanova, Fernanda Aoki Navarro, Gernot Wolfgang, Eric Guinivan, Alexander Miller, Viet Cuong, Julie Herndon, Gilda Lyons, Timothy Peterson, Juhi Bansal, Thomas Osborne, and myself – to each write a response to one movement of the original. Throughout 2022 I will tour with a program consisting of the original and the newly composed cycle. I will record and release both works as an album in 2022 (stay tuned for details!).
I am beyond thrilled to have such an incredible group of composers as collaborators for this project!
Please visit the Makrokosmos 50 Project webpage for details, including concert and album release dates.