Former Penn teacher and Grammy-winning composer George Crumb dies at 92


Music composer and former Penn teacher George Crumb dies Feb. 6, 2022 (Photo by Sarah Shatz).

Grammy-winning composer and Annenberg Professor Emeritus of the Humanities, George Crumb died at age 92 on February 6, his record label Bridge Records announcement.

Considered an accomplished avant-garde composer, Crumb gained public recognition as a gifted composer in the 1960s and 1970s, the Penn Gazette reported.

Crumb received a Pulitzer Prize for Music for his work “Echoes of Time and the River” in 1968 and received a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for his play “Star-Child” in 2001, according to NPR. After a creative stall in the 1980s and 1990s, Crumb released a series of American Songbooks from 2003 to 2010.

Crumb taught music composition and theory at Annenberg from 1965 to 1997, becoming Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Humanities in 1983. Before becoming a professor at Penn, Crumb taught at the University of Colorado.

Several of Crumb’s students have become successful composers themselves – including Christopher Rouse, Osvaldo Golijov and Jennifer Higdon, The New York Times reported.

“Penn was a really exciting school for me. Most of my teaching consisted of private sessions with composition students, and there were a lot of great composition students — there always are,” Crumb told the Penn Gazette in 2019.

Born to two professional musicians, Crumb began composing at the age of 10. Crumb’s composition has been credited for combining sounds from a variety of sources — including African, Chinese, Japanese and Indian influences, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. His work incorporated a range of instruments and represented a wide range of moods.

Several artists have named Crumb as an influence for their work. In 2003, David Bowie named Crumb’s 1972 LP “Black Angels” one of his favorite albums, Pitchfork reported.

The Annenberg Center paid tribute to Crumb in 2019 with a three-day festival featuring his music, titled “Zeitgeist: George Crumb at 90”.

Crumb died Sunday at his home in Media, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife, pianist Elizabeth May (Brown) Crumb, and his two sons, David and Peter.


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