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Thread: Milton Babbitt

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Default Milton Babbitt

    I'm very surprised to find that we evidently don't have a Milton Babbitt thread here. (I searched - did I miss it? If so, let me know and I'll ask the mods to merge this into that one.)

    According to wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Babbitt], Milton Babbitt (1913-2011) "is particularly noted for his serial and electronic music." He studied under several teachers including Roger Sessions, and his students included Stephen Sondheim and Frederic Rzewski.

    According to his New York Times obituary [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/ar...nted=all&_r=0], "Mr. Babbitt was the first to use this serial ordering not only with pitches but also with dynamics, timbre, duration, registration and other elements. His methods became the basis of the “total serialism” championed in the 1950s by Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono and other European composers."

    He became most famous probably not for his music but for an essay that someone else titled, "Who Cares if You Listen?" The article argued "that contemporary composition was a business for specialists, on both the composing and listening end of the transaction, and that the general public’s objections were irrelevant" (NYT). Babbitt wrote, "The time has passed when the normally well-educated man without special preparation could understand the most advanced work in, for example, mathematics, philosophy and physics. Advanced music, to the extent that it reflects the knowledge and originality of the informed composer, scarcely can be expected to appear more intelligible than these arts and sciences to the person whose musical education usually has been even less extensive than his background in other fields."

    The Telegraph obituary (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obit...n-Babbitt.html) quotes Alex Ross's declaration that Babbit's music was "so Byzantine in construction that one practically needed a security clearance to understand it."

    I suspect that Philomel and "All Set" have become his most famous works, but I am not confident about that. His string quartets seem to be popular as well. His works for synthesizer are also famous, but, as far as I know, hard to find on CD or vinyl. According to the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/music/201...bbitt-obituary), "Notable in his output are Composition for Twelve Instruments (1948), Sextets, for violin and piano (1966), Reflections, for piano and tape (1975), and Quintet, for clarinet and string quartet (1997)."
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I watched this film on Babbitt a few weeks ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    [YT]v=sf_Zfpq3gqk[/YT]

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Some pieces I quite enjoy:

    Composition for Guitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAf1g_geJOA

    Partitions: http://youtu.be/JuTRWHAd_IM?t=31m14s

    Piano Concerto N°2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjSTosbK60s (I really like this piece, quite intriguing)

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    What a horrible composer...I mean really. Anyone who gets this 'music' my hat is off to them.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Romanza View Post
    What a horrible composer...I mean really. Anyone who gets this 'music' my hat is off to them.
    I feel quite the same about some of your favored composers, which we've already discussed rather congenially in PM's some time ago. I don't recall enough of those, but do not think horrible was in any of them, nor did either of us need to put 'music' in satiric air quotes :-)

    Just sayin' so as to match the as I perceive it gratuitous nature of your post.
    Last edited by PetrB; Jan-13-2014 at 10:00.

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    Senior Member Couac Addict's Avatar
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    I think we're shirking the real issue....who dressed the pianist?

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    Senior Member Cheyenne's Avatar
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    I never could get over the fact that the guy's name is actually 'Babbitt'.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheyenne View Post
    I never could get over the fact that the guy's name is actually 'Babbitt'.
    Ironic, idn't it? That the name of the central character of the Sinclair Lewis novel by the same name should became eponymous with "a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards"
    ... that this "thorny" composer should have that as his family name? LOL.

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    I feel quite the same about some of your favored composers, which we've already discussed rather congenially in PM's some time ago. I don't recall enough of those, but do not think horrible was in any of them, nor did either of us need to put 'music' in satiric air quotes :-)

    Just sayin' so as to match the as I perceive it gratuitous nature of your post.
    It certainly wouldn't matter to me what you think of Elgar, RVW, or Shostakovich for example. So, in that spirit, it really shouldn't matter what I say about Babbitt if you really enjoy his music, right? I was just telling people how I felt about this 'composer' and since this is his thread, I have every right to express that opinion just as anyone would have the right to express their dislike for whatever composer they don't care for.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    He's a compsoser of some beautiful and refined piano music, this is a CD I play often, especially Partitions, Post partitions and Canonical Form

    248427_350.jpg

    You may enjoy this documentary, I did.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptiveca...milton-babbitt
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-13-2014 at 17:48.

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    Babbitt was head of composition at Yale, and Steven Sondheim was one of his students. Sondheim remembers their analysis of popular songs. Babbitt was a sax player, and played in some popular music bands. As did Allan Forte, also of Yale, and America's top music theorist. Forte frequently analyzed "Over the Rainbow" in his analysis classes.

    Babbitt not only applied serialism to non-pitch elements; he also was instrumental in identifying certain forms of serial sets, such as "all-interval sets" which were sought out for their symmetry characteristics. Elliott Carter was also interested in sets like this, as was George Perle. This created an American school of serialism, with its own unique thrust.

    Look for the Youtube clip on Allen Forte, called "Music makes a better person."

    Babbitt's music has its own unique beauty, as reflected in works like Philomel, the Piano Concerto, and all the piano works (as mentioned).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Romanza View Post
    It certainly wouldn't matter to me what you think of Elgar, RVW, or Shostakovich for example. So, in that spirit, it really shouldn't matter what I say about Babbitt if you really enjoy his music, right? I was just telling people how I felt about this 'composer' and since this is his thread, I have every right to express that opinion just as anyone would have the right to express their dislike for whatever composer they don't care for.
    We know this, and respect your feelings, neo; but it's rather like a vegan at the table, complaining, while I'm trying to enjoy my steak.

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    Senior Member Neo Romanza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    We know this, and respect your feelings, neo; but it's rather like a vegan at the table, complaining, while I'm trying to enjoy my steak.
    So we should just all be sheep and follow what the others are doing on the same thread? I don't think so. A composer thread isn't just meant for positive reinforcement, it's also meant to express negative opinions, otherwise, all you have is a white page with nothing on it. I look at it as conversation and not as myself trying to 'pick a fight with the Babbitt fans.' You or anyone else can spin it however you want, I'm out of here.
    “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” - Béla Bartók

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    Senior Member Flamme's Avatar
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    Not exactly my cup of tea but definitely has a value
    'Listen, Mister god!
    Isn't it boring
    to dip your puffy eyes,
    every day, into a jelly of clouds?'

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Romanza View Post
    ...A composer thread isn't just meant for positive reinforcement, it's also meant to express negative opinions...
    This area is called "Composer guestbooks." I take that somewhat literally. Would you go to somebody's house for dinner and leave a comment in their guestbook that the food was lousy and the bathroom stank?

    There are other places in the forum for that!


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