Master recording engineer Curt Wittig has died. I knew Curt because of his association with the 21st Century Consort; he recorded their concerts over a period of decades. Scroll down to bottom of this page for a bio note. There is an archive of Curt’s Consort recordings here. Find some old snapshots with Curt on composer Maurice Wright’s scrapbook page. (Update: Maurice has posted additional pictures here.)
Curt was the recording engineer for the second recording I ever made, about 30 years ago: Crumb’s Celestial Mechanics, with pianist Lambert Orkis (reissued on Innova). He also took care of the amplification for the Consort performances Lambert and I gave of the work, creating the larger-than-life sound that Crumb wanted – not just loud, but rich and true and undistorted. Given the amount of sound being put out by the piece, a substantial amp was required, and in my mind’s eye I can see Curt setting up this massive black box of an amplifier that he took pride in like an ordnance officer taking pride in an especially large bomb… a sort of “that oughta do it” glee…
He recorded performances of the many pieces of mine that the Consort has done over the years, and he was the engineer for the recordings of my vocal music that are in the process of being edited (read more here). I will remember Curt as not only a consummate professional, but as a vibrant spirit, full of love for life, for music. He was so supportive of, so enthusiastic regarding what we musicians all try to do. I am grateful to have known him.
Update: with permission, here is the text of an e-mail announcing Curt’s passing, sent by Christopher Kendall, director of the 21st Century Consort, and Dean of the School of Music, Theater and Dance at University of Michigan:
The news of Curt Wittig’s sudden departure from this world on Monday is shocking and incredibly sad news for all of us. Curt’s meaning in the music world, in which he has long been a revered figure and pioneer, has been immense. In Washington, as the chronicler and indispensable part of many of the region’s most meaningful musical enterprises for decades, his contribution has been incalculable. Both of the Consorts in which I’m involved have counted Curt a member of the family. Curt had the commitment and also the temperament of an artist, and was truly “one of us.” Our memories of these ensembles’ musical milestones will be forever affirmed in the magnificent recordings Curt produced of our activities. Our living and reliving of thirty years of music will be forever inhabited by the spirit of Curt.
As it happens, I wrote Curt an email the night he died, thanking him for the latest piece of his extraordinary archival work on the 21st Century Consort’s history. He had reached back to the very first concert the group performed in 1975, and miraculously preserved its recording. I hope he was able to read that message of appreciation for his incredible life’s work before he died, and that his passing was peaceful.
We await further word as Curt’s family makes plans for a memorial. For now, your passing on of this news to those who would want to know is appreciated.