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Vox Balaenae George Crumb Voice Of The Whale Score

Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) by George Crumb

In 1971, George Crumb was inspired to write the Voice of the Whale after hearing a recording of the underwater “singing” of the humpback whale. The Voice of the Whale does not use traditional harmonies nor does it use the instruments in a traditional way. The instruments are amplified electronically and the performers are directed by Crumb to wear half-masks.

At the beginning of this piece the flautist hums and blows into the instrument at the same time and the pianist may at times reach into the piano and pluck the strings. Also, about 5 minutes into the piece the cello solo is very unusual.

Describe the Voice of the Whale using terms such as timbre, rhythm, melody, harmony, form, style, notes,  instruments, and dynamics.

ANSWER: I enjoyed the extraordinary sounding style and rhythm of The Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) by George Crumb, it was quite intense, almost "supernatural" sounds for failure of a better word, at first it sounded like an elephant to me. The melody was eerie sounding, especially when the piano began, like a human being is in another dimension, and it also reminded me of the Jaws movie when the shark is coming. But the flute made it all better, made it more soothing. I suppose being underwater is kind of like that to people though (kind of dehumanized?). The timbre, or pitch, was definitely unconventional in an exotic and surreal way, like it was seductive. The combination of the flute, cello and piano instruments, or the harmony, was very interesting and mysterious, I liked the musical form all combined perfectly together the way it did from beginning to end. The flautist and her flute was my favorite. The dynamics of this song was pleasing to the ear, not too loud nor too soft, perfect just like the harmony was.

How does this piece redefine your perception of music?  

ANSWER:  This piece didn't really redefine my perception of music as much as it confirmed that a continuity of a song can be pleasing and enjoyed, regardless of what combination of instruments are used, by having just the perfect rhythm, timbre, melody and harmony. It also confirmed that music takes a lot of work, extraordinary power, creativity and practice to make it sound well to yourself, as well as to others. Never would have thought of imitating the sounds of a whale underwater into song using instruments, George Crump is very imaginative with music!


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