Obituary: Influential Composer George Crumb Dies at 92

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Emma Lee)

On Feb. 6, 2022, composer George Crumb died in his home in Media, Pennsylvania at the age of 92.

Born on Oct. 24, 1929, in Charleston, West Virginia, Crumb began to compose at an early age and went on to study at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan.  He later majored in music at the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts and obtained his M.Mus. at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Following his U.S. studies, he was a Fulbright fellow at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin before returning to the United States to study at the University of Michigan, from which he received a D.M.A. in 1959.

Following his studies, he began teaching at a college in Virginia and later became a professor of piano and composition at the University of Colorado in 1958. In 1965, he began his association with the University of Pennsylvania and would eventually retire from teaching in 1995.

In early 2002 he was appointed with David Burge to a joint residency at Arizona State University.

Throughout the many years, he taught Crumb became a recognized composer that was heavily influenced by Anton Webern. He was interested in exploring unusual timbres, something he considered as important as rhythm, harmony, and counterpoint. He composed an array of music from orchestral works to Madrigals to vocal music to song cycles. Crumb also composed multiple chamber works and piano works.

He went on to receive the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his orchestral work “Echoes of Time and the River” and in 2000 won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Composition for his work “Star-Child.” In 1995, the composer was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal.

Crumb was an influential composer and teacher and taught such recognized composers as Ofer Ben-Amots, Margaret Brouwer, Uri Caine, Robert Carl, Osvaldo Golijov, and Jennifer Higdon, among others.