Milton Babbitt RIP
The composer has died in New York, age 94.
Babbitt's obituaries will no doubt make much of his famous essay "Who Cares If You Listen?" in which he made a case for the composer as specialist, like a research scientist, working on projects that were only intended for a small circle of other specialists. This helped set him up as an archetype of the impenetrable creator of music audiences aren't supposed to like. But this is far too facile an appraisal of a composer whose music is far more human than perhaps even he at times would like to admit (and bear in mind that there are cabaret songs in his output as well as serialist string quartets).
Here's the start of "Philomel" from 1964, perhaps his best-known work, with a pioneering juxtaposition of synthesizer and human voice. I find it speaks well for the world that "Philomel" (and a lot of other Babbitt work) is on YouTube. If only we could see more of that work in the concert hall.
| January 29, 2011; 6:42 PM ET
Categories: national, news
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