This man is outstanding. Whereas most of us play at the creation of music by putting sound events together to see what happens, Crumb’s music seems an effortless expression of original ideas. When music makes such a genuine, personal statement, we experience its potential.
To me, this is exemplary modern composition. It is progressive, without scaring away casual listeners. I have heard Crumb’s music compared to east Asian temple music, in the way that it breaks contemplative silences with ringing bursts of exotic melodic fragments. His harmonies are tense enough to be exciting, but the overall mood of his works tends toward introspection and calm.
“Dream Images” is a short work, yet I feel it has a lot to say. Crumb’s use of Chopin in three spots creates an impression that this is a soundtrack for a waking dream, that the center of our creativity lies just beyond the reach of our consciousness. The Chopin samples surely are placed as interruptions, but in the end we realize that we have measured the passage of time by their appearance. They have surpassed their role as flitting moments of lucidity between descents into sleep, and informed us that we cannot shake the impact that other people’s work has on our attempts to remain original. We are left to wonder, shall we curse the old masters for distracting us from our attempts at innovation, or shall we praise them for reminding us that our notion of originality is a delusion — as intangible as the images in our dreams?