In Search of Planet X by Matthew Schreibeis (Gr’ 2008).
In 1971 Penn faculty composer George Crumb wrote Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) for three masked
players: electric flute, electric cello, and amplified piano. The piece has become a classic of 20th century
music. In the words of the composer, a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the most recognized composers of
our time, “The work was inspired by the singing of the humpback whale, a tape recording of which I had
heard two or three years previously. The masks, by effacing the sense of human projection, are intended to
represent, symbolically, the powerful impersonal forces of nature (i.e. nature dehumanized).”
In March 2012, as part of its new Public Lives of Music series of musical events and lectures, the music
department presented a concert called The Wail of the Voice!, a punny tribute to George’s piece and
contemporary music. The concert featured music by Penn composers – emeritus, current faculty and
alumni. Of course the centerpiece of that inaugural concert was Vox Balaenae.
Now an annual event, the music department presented the second Wail! concert in January 2013 in Rose
View the concert program here:
View other videos of the concert here:
Wail of the Voice! 2013 Videos