George Crumb (1929) studied at Mason College of Music in his home city of Charleston (West Virginia), where he received his bachelor's degree in 1950. He continued his training with Eugene Weigel at the University of Illinois and after receiving his master's degree, studied under Boris Blacher at Berlin's Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. In 1959, he received his Doctor of Musical Arts under Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In the 1960s and 1970s, Crumb gained recognition with his compositions that were performed by prominent soloists and ensembles all over the world. These were mainly vocal compositions based on the poetry of Federico García Lorca, such as Ancient Voices of Children (1970), the four books with Madrigals (1965-69) and Night of the Four Moons (1969). Important instrumental compositions include Black Angels (1970) for electric string quartet, Vox Balaenae (1971) for electric flute, electric cello and amplified piano, the piano cycle Makrokosmos (1972–73) and his largest score until that point: Star-Child (1977) for soprano, solo trombone, children's voices, male choir, bells and large orchestra. His recent work includes Eine kleine Mitternachtmusik for solo piano (2001), the seven-part song cycle American Songbook (2001–2010) and Spanish Songbook (2009), for which he returned to the poetry of García Lorca.
Crumb's music is characterised by the mixing and contrasting effects of different musical styles: from western art music to hymns, folk music and music from non-western cultures. Many of his compositions also include symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which can also be seen in the unorthodox notation of his scores. Crumb taught at the University of Pennsylvania for over thirty years. His work has been awarded various prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize (1968) and a Grammy Award (2001).