2011 01 29 Milton Babbitt


I just read about Milton Babbitt passing away. When I was in school, Babbitt was often brought up as an quintessential 20th Century composer. While much of his music didn’t appeal to me, his idea and concepts of music have stuck in my craw. He may be best know for a well-referenced essay, “Who Cares If You Listen”.

For some reason, his thoughts on how series music need not appeal to the general public didn’t seem to register with many composer that I met in school. They were often embittered at how little acclaim they received for their efforts and were unyielding in their need for approval while rarely giving the audience worthy material.

I was very fond of the idea of smaller, concentrated groups performing whatever arts they enjoyed to those who also enjoyed it. This allows those who wish such activities to continue to do so without cluttering or reducing their work for easier consumption. The great thing about any art is how the finest ideas eventually leak through and those willing to listen/absorb or consume, will discover them on their own time. But

“Admittedly, if this music is not supported, the whistling repertory of the man in the street will be little affected, the concert-going activity of the conspicuous consumer of musical culture will be little disturbed.

But music will cease to evolve, and, in that important sense, will cease to live.”