Saturday, January 29, 2011

For Milton Babbitt (1916-2011)

I think we're finally past the point where musicians have to stop pretending that this is great music. Even so, this music doesn't suck either. Babbitt was, like Stockhausen, an overrated composer whose avant garde music retains a certain overwhelming kitsch value. Nobody should have to pretend that all composers ought to write like this, or that music like this is somehow the next evolutionary step from Mahler, or that this music expresses anything more profound than an experience college kids can derive from an acid trip. Still, a lot of it's entertaining, and Babbitt was a very intelligent and funny man. It may not change that he was one of the most deleterious influences on music in the 20th century, but he was also a fine musician and not quite as dogmatic as some of his coevals (we're looking at you Pierre).

(I liked his electronic music better. At least it wasn't second-rate Webern, and I don't really like Webern either)

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