is truly a landmark of 20th-Century piano literature. Crumb composed this piece in 1972 for his dear friend, pianist David Burge, and dedicated it to his great influence, the composer Bela Bartok. Taking its inspiration from Bartok's "Mikrokosmos", and Claude Debussy's Preludes, as well as "the darker side of Chopin" and "the child-like fantasy of early Schumann", it is a masterwork that not only utilizes the full dynamic and expressive range of the piano played from the keyboard; Crumb masterfully creates an entirely new coloristic and tonal palette by making use of extended, inside-the-piano techniques. Crumb evokes all manner of otherworldly resonances by utilizing techniques such as muted and strummed strings, harmonics, and various percussive effects. In addition, the pianist must chant, shout, sing, whistle, and moan like a ghost.
Crumb cites two beautiful lines of poetry as inspiration for this piece - one by the French mathematician Pascal: "The eternal silence of infinite space terrifies me"; the other by the German poet Rilke: "And in the nights the heavy earth is falling from all the stars down into loneliness. We are all falling. And yet there is One who holds this falling endlessly gently in his hands."
There are twelve movements in this piece, which Crumb subtitles "Twelve Fantasy-Pieces after the Zodiac". Each movement represents a different sign of the Zodiac, and each one is dedicated to a different friend, colleague, or musical or artistic influence of the composer born under that particular sign. For example, Crumb dedicates Movement 10 - Spring-Fire (Aries) to Burge, and Movement 5 - The Phantom Gondolier (Scorpio) to himself.
Crumb's music in general, but Makrokosmos, Volume I in particular, has been a source of tremendous artistic inspiration for me throughout my musical life.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the composition of Makrokosmos, Volume I, I have commissioned eleven composers - Vera Ivanova, Fernanda Aoki Navarro, Gernot Wolfgang, Eric Guinivan, Alexander Elliott Miller, Viet Cuong, Julie Herndon, Gilda Lyons, Timothy Peterson, Juhi Bansal, and Thomas Osborne, each to join me in writing a response to one movement of Makrokosmos, Volume I. This new celestial cycle is a celebration and commemoration of Crumb's original masterpiece.
Makrokosmos is loaded with musical and extramusical associations - poetry, spirituality, and big metaphysical and cosmic ideas. To me, however, the most special thing about the piece is it's celebration of connections between people - friends, family, teachers, colleagues and those who inspire us, shape our lives and make us who we are.
- Nic Gerpe