George Crumb, Quest

George Crumb (b. 1929)

Modern Hue:
Nathan Cornelius, guitar
Sean Campbell, saxophone
Rebecca Schaefer, harp
Kyle Hughes, percussion and dulcimer
John Kinzie, percussion

George Crumb was one of the leading American composers of the 20th century, known for his unusual combinations of instruments, intricately designed scores, and mystical subject matter. Quest, written in 1994 for guitarist David Starobin, uses a diverse array of instruments, including Appalachian hammered dulcimer, African talking drum, and Japanese temple bells, to create an astonishing web of sound, with the guitar as the protagonist.  For Crumb, the music expresses “the concept of a ‘quest’ as a long and tortuous journey towards an ecstatic and transfigured feeling of ‘arrival.’” The quotation from the American hymn tune “Amazing Grace,” with its line “I once was lost, but now am found,” contributes to the imagery of a search for peace amid darkness and trouble. In the final movement, “Nocturnal,” the hymn tune, played freely by the saxophone, alternates with a more rhythmic idea in the guitar and harp whose ascending contour and pentatonic harmony resemble that of “Amazing Grace.”

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