Saturday, January 29, 2011

Milton Babbitt

The great modernist composer and teacher has died, age 94. His students included Mario Davidovsky and Stephen Sondheim; he knew and loved barroom piano as well as modern notational music. NPR has a remembrance and obit here.

I like his music a whole lot, myself, and, yes, I'm fine with the idea of new music that's written for other composers - or for people like me who like modernist music.



Joe Barron said...

A composer should write what he or she feels is important. The audience will take care of itself. It took me a long time to appreciate Babbitt's music, even though I liked any number of other atonalists. But today I find it listenable, elegant, even pretty. And Babbitt himself was a very engaging man. The DJ on WPRB Princeton this morning played his Soli e Duetti for flute and guitar, and he said that he would miss seeing Milton around town. A real mensch, he called him. The whole "who cares if you listen?" thing I'm sure will be done to death in the coming days, but, really, who cares who cares?

Lisa Hirsch said...

I agree with you, of course. I get a funny look in my eyes whenever people start talking about paying attention to the audience's needs and desires, because art is not about taking polls.

Tod Brody said...

Those with an interest in Babbitt will enjoy this very personal remembrance by one of his many accomplished students, the composer David Rakowski.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, and welcome! I assume you're Tod Brody the flutist?

Steve Hicken said...

I think that if you think of the what the audience wants, then you must think that what they want is something less challenging than what you would otherwise do. If that is the case, and if other composers write what they want to write and trust the audience to come along, then which kind of composer has a higher opinion of the audience?

Henry Holland said...

Via Alex Ross comes this very engaging 63-minute documentary about MB called Portrait of a Serial Composer that I watched at work today.


A pox on the person who wrote the headline for that High Fidelity piece, it totally mis-represents his point.