rip, milton babbit

Famous for writing, “Who cares if you listen?”* – an essay that reflected on the gulfs between composers listeners, Babbit was one of America’s great composers. He also taught Stephen Sondheim, which is a little hard to guess if you listen to his music. Here’s his second string quartet, which you can follow along with the score.

*Babbit complained of the title, and for good reason, it’s not really an accurate summary of what he says. But the folks at High Fidelity figured it would be more famous with their title. They were right. Babbit wanted to call it, “The Composer as Specialist.”

2 thoughts on “rip, milton babbit”

  1. Sondheim writes of Babbitt:

    ‘He was a closet songwriter, an admirer of Kern and Arlen as much as Mozart and Schoenberg. The first hour of each of our weekly sessions would be devoted to analyzing a song like “All the Things You Are,” the next three to the Jupiter Symphony, always concentrating on the tautness of the structures, the leanness and frugality of the musical ideas.’

    Sondheim never goes all tone row, and the accompaniments are certainly chordal, but more so than any other Broadway composer I can think of, his work diverges from traditional tonality. Several of his melodies seem to be based on modes or scales other than the traditional major and minor scales.

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