George Crumb developed his mature style in 1962 and wrote eight chamber works with flute between 1965 and 1986. The first, Madrigals, Book II (composed 1965) was written for soprano, alto flute (doubling flute in C and piccolo) and percussion. The last, Federico’s Little Songs for Children (composed 1986) was written for soprano, flute (also piccolo, alto flute and bass flute) and harp. This thesis explores the organizational principles that are the essence of Crumb’s unique individual style with a detailed analysis of pitch-class content and contour, along with a general survey of rhythm and special effects in both pieces. Also included is an essay on the performance of the extended flute techniques throughout all eight of Crumb’s chamber works with flute.
Written 21 years apart, Madrigals, Book II and Federico’s Little Songs for Children employ many of the same organizational principles, including chromaticism, symmetry, dissonance, and disjunct motion. Both of these pieces are highly chromatic, often emphasizing pitch-class sets that are symmetrical and contain the tritone, such as (0167). Small sets are often expanded into larger supersets while large sets are generally fragmented and broken down into smaller subsets. The contour of the music is often disjunct, with displaced chromaticism and frequent large leaps of dissonant intervals such as tritones, sevenths and ninths. Crumb also utilizes irregular rhythmic patterns and special effects that contribute to his individual style. Irrational divisions of the beat, ties over barlines and radical time signatures often distort any sense of time and meter.