Milton Babbitt 1916-2011 – Provocative and Challenging   6 comments

American composer Milton Babbitt, longtime professor at Princeton University, died last week.

He may be best known for his article Who cares if you listen, written in 1958. His title for this article was The Composer as Specialist. An editor at High Fidelity magazine changed it to the more controversial one.

Many years later Babbitt said that due to the  “offensively vulgar title” he was “still … far more likely to be known as the author of Who Cares if You Listen? than as the composer of music to which you may or may not care to listen.”

Here’s more:

“I dare suggest that the composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media.”

It may be an urban legend that he once said “teaching performance in a music department would be like teaching typing in the English department!”

These are definitely not my views, not by a long shot.  And his students include, believe it or not, Stephen Sondheim.

And here’s a great obit, saying among other things, “…with the cultural commentator Alex Ross describing him as an “emblematic Cold War composer” producing music “so Byzantine in construction that one practically needed a security clearance to understand it”.


Posted February 2, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

6 responses to “Milton Babbitt 1916-2011 – Provocative and Challenging

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