”‘I’m sorry to report that Milton Babbitt died this morning at age 94. He was a great and important composer, and a dear friend, colleague and teacher.”
“Composer Milton Babbitt, who was known for his complex orchestral compositions and credited with developing the first electronic synthesizer in the 1950s, died Saturday. He was 94…
In the 1950s, RCA hired Babbitt as a consultant as it was developing the Mark II synthesizer. He became a founder and director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, where the synthesizer was installed.”
“Mr. Babbitt, who had a lively sense of humor despite the reputation for severity that his music fostered, sometimes referred to himself as a maximalist to stress the musical and philosophical distance between his style and the simpler, more direct style of younger contemporaries like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and other Minimalist composers. It was an apt description… Although colleagues who worked in atonal music objected when their music was described as cerebral or academic, Mr. Babbitt embraced both terms and came to be regarded as the standard-bearer of the ultrarational extreme in American composition.
“Why refuse to recognize the possibility that contemporary music has reached a stage long since attained by other forms of activity?” Mr. Babbitt wrote. “The time has passed when the normally well-educated man without special preparation could understand the most advanced work in, for example, mathematics, philosophy and physics. Advanced music, to the extent that it reflects the knowledge and originality of the informed composer, scarcely can be expected to appear more intelligible than these arts and sciences to the person whose musical education usually has been even less extensive than his background in other fields.”
“FRANK J. OTERI: You’ve said a number of times over the years that we’re forced to use the expression “classical music” to describe the music that we’re creating now, which really doesn’t fit and really kind of hurts our purpose in a way because it’s an inaccurate term.
MILTON BABBITT: You know why. I don’t have to tell you, I don’t have to tell anyone why it’s an inaccurate term; it’s an historical term. It describes a certain chronological period at the end of the eighteenth century and so it defines something. Well, after that it becomes normative; it becomes a kind of music; it becomes qualitative, quantitative, and it’s misleading.”
“RIP Milton Babbitt. We listened, whether he cared or not:”
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