The Voice of the Whale.

Krisztina Dér, “electric” flute
Emily Grissing, “electric” cello
Richard Auvil, “electric” piano

Vox Balaenae for three masked players (1971), by George Crumb (b. 1929)
Vocalise (…for the beginning of time)
Variations on Sea-Theme
~ Sea Theme
~ Archeozoic [Var. I]
~ Proterozoic [Var. II]
~ Paleozoic [Var. III]
~ Mesozoic [Var. IV]
~ Cenozoic [Var. V]
Sea-Nocturne (…for the end of time)

January 18, 2014.

20140118_130608“Exuberant, uninterrupted rivers of sound”–these are the words zoologist Robert Searle Payne used to describe the musical sounds produced by humpback whales, which he discovered in 1969.  Payne’s recording of the whale song was given to George Crumb by the New York Camerata, commissioning a work inspired by the voice of the whale (or, Vox Balaenae, in latin).

Vox Balaenae is a synergy of theatrics, extended techniques, musical quotations, and a submarine-sound environment, with the use of amplification (hence the “electric” instruments).  Both the masks worn by the musicians and the deep-blue light in which they perform symbolize (according to the score) “the powerful impersonal forces of nature” by “effacing a sense of human projection.”  The variations are named after geological periods which describe the formation of the world.  The Archeozoic period was defined by volcanic activity and heat, while the Proterozoic period transitioned our planet to the oxygenated (and, thereby, complex-life friendly) atmosphere of the Paleozoic period.  The Mesozoic period is called the “Age of Reptiles” in contrast to the Cenozoic period, the “Age of Mammals.”    Technicalities aside, Vox Balaenae is a work of captivating, mysterious, timeless beauty–very much like a whale itself.

This performance took place on my second Master’s recital: January 18, 2014, in Watson Hall at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.  Richard Auvil (piano) and Emily Grissing (cello) were both gracious enough to help me make my cetaceous dreams come true!

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