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The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: gomro on May 05, 2007, 04:41:42 PM

Title: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: gomro on May 05, 2007, 04:41:42 PM
Milton Babbitt is not a composer I'm very familiar with, but I recently picked up a recording of his Relata II and found it a quite bracing, quasi-Varesian excursion, not at all the serialist morse-code I expected from his reputation and the only other piece of his I know well, Composition for Synthesizer, which I have on a vinyl disc highlighting music from the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. That piece is not a highlight of the disc, imho, but I really like Relata II.

Anyone out there know enough Babbitt to recommend something else?
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Earthlight on May 05, 2007, 05:41:36 PM
Robert Taub recorded a disc, Milton Babbitt Piano Works, for Harmonia Mundi. It's not in the Arkiv listing and so I assume it's OOP, but it's worth keeping an eye out for. I find a lot of the music on there refreshing and enjoyable -- kind of meditative in places, though maybe that's just me -- and not at all in keeping with his reputation for austerity and fun-deficiency.

I have another disc of his solo piano music, on CRI, but I left it in the truck and can't give you details at the moment. I'm somewhat less attracted to it. I've never heard any of his vocal music or SQs, nor Relata II for that matter.

Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on May 06, 2007, 08:21:41 AM
If you enjoyed Relata II, then try Relata I available on this disc.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/21ARAoTTz-L._AA130_.jpg) (http://www.amazon.com/Persichetti-Night-Dances-Diamond-Symphony/dp/B0000030GL/ref=sr_1_19/104-2350312-9866339?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1178471537&sr=1-19)
(click the CD)

Relata I and II were composed to be played separately or right after each other as one big piece.
I enjoy a lot of Babbitt's music.  I will recommend the piano CD with Taub mentioned above.  Reflections for Piano and Tape is probably my favorite piece.

One thing I have noticed while listening to his music is that I listen to it in almost the same way that I listen to minimalist music.  I don't listen to all the notes or try to hear everything, but I listen away from the music, letting it evolve on its own.  With both of those musics, I get the sense that I am traveling through some space.  They achieve this effect in completely different ways, though.  With minimalism, in its simple, hypnotic motion, you lose track of where you are in the music.  With Babbitt and other complex serialist composers, the music is just so complex, that you have to let go of the here and now, and just let it go on its own.  This revelation with Babbitt eventually let me hear so many other composers in a new light.

Now my question is, where did you find a recording of Relata II? I have been searching for a long time.

Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: springrite on May 06, 2007, 08:28:27 AM
I have the Taub recording mentioned, and can recommend it highly. No, I do not have the CD, but a cassette tape that I got from BRO for 99c. I have it burned into a CD.

For those who have known Babbitt only by reputation, you should really give it a try. It is not as thorny as you may think it is. I find it quite enjoyable. I also have The Joy of Sex(tet) and Joy of More Sextet, as well as the None but the Lonely Flute CD by Catherine Stone which contain Babbitt pieces, all wonderfully enjoyable works!
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: not edward on May 06, 2007, 08:51:09 AM
For a cheap Babbitt burst, there's the Naxos reissue of solo and duo works.

There's some good stuff in there, showing the generally light-hearted nature of much of his work.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: gomro on May 06, 2007, 11:29:40 AM
If you enjoyed Relata II, then try Relata I available on this disc.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/21ARAoTTz-L._AA130_.jpg) (http://www.amazon.com/Persichetti-Night-Dances-Diamond-Symphony/dp/B0000030GL/ref=sr_1_19/104-2350312-9866339?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1178471537&sr=1-19)
(click the CD)

Relata I and II were composed to be played separately or right after each other as one big piece.
I enjoy a lot of Babbitt's music.  I will recommend the piano CD with Taub mentioned above.  Reflections for Piano and Tape is probably my favorite piece.

One thing I have noticed while listening to his music is that I listen to it in almost the same way that I listen to minimalist music.  I don't listen to all the notes or try to hear everything, but I listen away from the music, letting it evolve on its own.  With both of those musics, I get the sense that I am traveling through some space.  They achieve this effect in completely different ways, though.  With minimalism, in its simple, hypnotic motion, you lose track of where you are in the music.  With Babbitt and other complex serialist composers, the music is just so complex, that you have to let go of the here and now, and just let it go on its own.  This revelation with Babbitt eventually let me hear so many other composers in a new light.

Now my question is, where did you find a recording of Relata II? I have been searching for a long time.



Agh! That's the disc I have,  -- I actually bought it for the Persichetti -- and I have no idea why I kept writing "II" when I meant "I".
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Brewski on October 30, 2007, 07:02:04 AM
On Sunday I had a bit of a Babbitt epiphany: an experience that I liked, after years of hearing all sorts of his pieces that left me cold.  Soprano Judith Bettina sang The Head of the Bed (1981) with James Levine and the MET Chamber Ensemble.  The structure is pretty severe: 15 stanzas comprising 22 minutes of music, and the singer is "on," delivering an almost unbroken line pretty much the entire time, while various instrumental solos and duos weave in and out with her.  With its constricted pitch, meter and dynamic levels, the piece seems to have elements of minimalism, although it's probably heretical to mention that word and Babbitt in the same sentence. 

I have Bettina's recording of the piece (below) from the early 1990s, but never really liked it.  But on Sunday, I could feel my defenses lowering a bit, and when I just let my mind sink into the texture, enjoying Bettina's beautiful phrasing and the gorgeous instrumental contributions, somehow the whole thing worked. 

Now I want to revisit the recording (after a suitable break).

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41KPN82YCXL._AA240_.jpg)

--Bruce
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: johnQpublic on October 30, 2007, 09:35:30 AM
Got it:

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41KPN82YCXL._AA240_.jpg)

Got it:

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/21ARAoTTz-L._AA130_.jpg)

But I still don't get it.

Seriously, Babbitt is about a tough a nut as they come. And I actually own a good bit more of him including that classic Columbia-Princeton LP since it was first issued. Maybe some day it will click; meanwhile Babbitt leaves cold and cornfused.

Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on October 30, 2007, 06:31:26 PM
Would most people agree that Babbitt doesn't come off nearly as well on disc as he does in performance?  There is a spontaneity which is lost after the performance is recorded.  Some performers, like Taub, pull off a good recording.  But I would agree that most recordings of his music are a little flat.

I still love his music, though.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: bwv 1080 on October 30, 2007, 07:44:20 PM
The Taub piano recording is out of print, but posted in a flac file at the AG Project:

http://www.avantgardeproject.org/agp72/index.htm

Great stuff

Also will plug David Starobin's recording of Sheer Pluck/Composition for Guitar
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on October 30, 2007, 08:06:23 PM
The Taub piano recording is out of print, but posted in a flac file at the AG Project:

http://www.avantgardeproject.org/agp72/index.htm

Great stuff

Guess who that "devoted Babbitt aficionado in the USA" was...
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: bwv 1080 on October 31, 2007, 04:29:33 AM
Guess who that "devoted Babbitt aficionado in the USA" was...

Cool, thanks
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: bwv 1080 on November 05, 2007, 07:56:22 AM
There is a good interview with Babbitt here
http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=1545 (http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=1545)

Responding to attacks on serialism:

Quote
they make no effort to understand or are perhaps incapable of understanding, I don't know. I don't know, I really don't know the answer to this. I could say all kinds of pretentious things about it, which I really don't want to say because the music is there. If they think the Schoenberg Fourth Quartet and the Violin Concerto—I just won't go beyond Schoenberg, because there's so much other music—or the Stravinsky Movements for Piano and Orchestra, all these pieces are to be damned, good, I'm glad to be among the damned. I can't say that without proof and I don't like to say things without something that approximates demonstration. They don't recognize the music. They don't recognize the beginning of the Schoenberg Orchestral Variations. Look, after all in my generation, no one was to the twelve-tone manner born. I mean, we suddenly encountered it, we were interested in learning the music, learning what was going on in the music, or we didn't. You know, so many different people came to it for so many different reasons. When Aaron Copland, I don't know how many people are even aware that now, ended up writing so-called serial—I'm saying so-called because the term is so misunderstood—but when he wrote serial music, I'll never forget, Aaron, and I'll call him Aaron, because I did call him Aaron, Aaron once said, you know, "twelve-tone music is this mathematical thing, no, it's not for me," and he said that. He said that publicly. And then, about ten years later, he began writing music, in fact to such an extent, I'll say in all lack of modesty, that he wanted me to write an article about his Piano Fantasy, which I did, but the magazine that asked for it went out of existence, the IMA magazine from England, which you probably never saw. But Aaron then said, "Oh my God, I discovered that by playing with these twelve-tone [whatever he called them, rows, probably], I found chords that I had never imagined before." Some people criticize, "What a superficial view of twelve-tone, he found chords he had never found before…" but I thought that was fine. For him, to satisfy the kind of interest that he would have. After all, he went to the Boulangerie, where you learn to slice and package and label chords, and here were chords that were not sliced and packaged and labeled in the Boulangerie! For him that was important; it wasn't important for some of us. So it has fulfilled all of these different needs for people as unlike as Copland and Sessions and Stravinsky. And that people could presume to be off-handed about anything that had this attraction for people of that caliber…don't ask.

 Babbitt is also a beer lover and talks at some length about it in the interview
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: bwv 1080 on November 05, 2007, 08:08:52 AM
Also, Babbitt's famous essay Who Cares if You Listen is available here

http://www.palestrant.com/babbitt.html (http://www.palestrant.com/babbitt.html)

Quote
Like all communication, this music presupposes a suitably equipped receptor. am aware that "tradition" has it that the lay listener, by virtue of some undefined, transcendental faculty, always is able to arrive at a musical judgment absolute in its wisdom if not always permanent in its validity. regret my inability to accord this declaration of faith the respect due its advanced age.


Deviation from this tradition is bound to dismiss the contemporary music of which I have been talking into "isolation." Nor do I see how or why the situation should be otherwise. Why should the layman be other than bored and puzzled by what he is unable to understand, music or anything else? It is only the translation of this boredom and puzzlement into resentment and denunciation that seems to me indefensible. After all, the public does have its own music, its ubiquitous music: music to eat by, to read by, to dance by, and to be impressed by. Why refuse to recognize the possibility that contemporary music has reached a stage long since attained by other forms of activity? 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. But to this, a double standard is invoked, with the words music is music," implying also that "music is just music." Why not, then, equate the activities of the radio repairman with those of the theoretical physicist, on the basis of the dictum that "physics is physics." It is not difficult to find statements like the following, from the New York Times of September 8, 1 957: "The scientific level of the conference is so high… that there are in the world only 120 mathematicians specializing in the field who could contribute." Specialized music on the other hand, far from signifying "height" of musical level, has been charged with "decadence," even as evidence of an insidious "conspiracy."
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on November 05, 2007, 11:02:24 AM
Also, Babbitt's famous essay Who Cares if You Listen is available here

http://www.palestrant.com/babbitt.html (http://www.palestrant.com/babbitt.html)
 

Be a little careful, because that version isn't transcribed completely right.  I remember linking to it awhile ago and then being offput by the errors.  The website uses the High Fidelity version (the changed version), and perhaps that is why it is different.

I have the full version in a book.  I'll transcribe it sometime.  It would make an interesting discussion.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on November 05, 2007, 11:05:59 AM
There is a good interview with Babbitt here
http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=1545 (http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=1545)

Responding to attacks on serialism:

 Babbitt is also a beer lover and talks at some length about it in the interview

This article is pretty old, even ancient by Internet standards.  But I enjoy rereading it.  Babbitt has a way with words that is unlike any other composer, perhaps more like his music.  I wish they would have released the entire video, but 2001 was before there was enough bandwidth to make downloading full length videos feasible.

I also have a Koch recording in which Babbitt reads his essay, "On having been and still being an American composer".  It is a joy to listen to.

But this is the last I have heard from Babbitt.  Does anyone know what he has been up to lately?  Any recorded music newer than the Swan Song No. 1?
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Brewski on November 05, 2007, 11:24:54 AM
But this is the last I have heard from Babbitt.  Does anyone know what he has been up to lately?  Any recorded music newer than the Swan Song No. 1?

Can't definitively answer the question, but for what it's worth, his bio in the Carnegie Hall program from the performance of The Head of the Bed doesn't mention any current projects.

--Bruce
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: snyprrr on April 29, 2009, 04:12:45 PM
Dear Julliard SQ,
       Remember that nice job you did with the Carter SQs? Hint hint.

Milton Babbitt: Complete String Quartets (Sony) by the Julliard Quartet. Come on, guys, doesn't that sound reasonable...come on!

Babbitt's SQs (2-6?) have that perfect computer/insect appeal that I love so much. Can't wait to hear Lejaren Hiller's SQ No.6 (1973). Anyone have a copy of Carter/Babbitt/Powell SQs on Music and Arts you want to get rid of?

I've been really turned off by Babbitt's orchestral work (Relata/ DG- just noisy), but the Piano Cto is for me, pure icy deliciousness.
And the Taub piano disc.


Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on May 07, 2009, 07:54:25 AM
Anyone have a copy of Carter/Babbitt/Powell SQs on Music and Arts you want to get rid of?

I have this disc as a copy.  I can send you some flac files, as this disc is hopelessly out of print.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: karlhenning on July 07, 2009, 02:56:58 AM
Thread has a tendency to sink.

I have a tendency to try to float it.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Tahar Mouslim on September 15, 2009, 09:22:32 AM
Coming back to this thread dedicated to Milton Babbitt, a musician that I really love and admire, to give a piece of information and a memory.

The piece of information is to let you guys know about the web site of the New Yorker pianist Augustus Arnone

It is called The complete Babbitt Project

During the spring of 2008, Augustus Arnone performed the complete piano works of Milton Babbitt in 2 concerts

Concert I — March 6, 2008

Allegro Penseroso(1999)

It Takes 12 to Tango (1984)

Partitions (1957), Post-Partitions(1966)

Tableaux(1974)

Preludes, Interludes, and Postlude (1991)

Semi-Simple Variations(1956), Minute Waltz (1977)

Tutte Le Corde (1994)

Concert II — June 10, 2008

The Old Order Changeth (1998)

Emblems (Ars Emblematica) (1989)

The ‘Time Series’

Playing For Time (1977)
About Time (1982)
Overtime (1987)

Lagniappe (1985)

My Complements to Roger (1978), Duet (1956)

Canonical Form (1983)

3 Compositions For Piano (1947)

Mr. Arnone accepted that these concerts be recorded and - today - one can freely download the content of these 2 programs on his web site for individual listening or for sharing. The pianist is just requesting one thing from the listener: to mention his name with the downloaded renditions.

This is a very generous initiative, even more so than these renditions are top notch (listen and compare: it is different, but often better than Taub).

I give you the link with both concerts:

June 10, 2008 (http://augustusarnone.com/journal/?cat=8)

March 6, 2008 (http://augustusarnone.com/journal/?cat=8&paged=2)


The memory is still fresh. Last fall 2008, on November 5, at the Miller Theatre inside Columbia University campus, the excellent Zukofsky Quartet played the complete work for String Quartet by Milton Babbitt. The old man was in attendance and was greeted by Jimmy Levine

How much Jimmy loved Babbitt was so obvious and contagious. How great these quartets are was so evident to me. How sharp the mind of the old affable man still was, although the body was tired!

It was an unbelievable concert!!

I just hope the Zukofsky Quartet will now record these pieces.

Last piece of information, I saw a thread dedicated to the Avant Garde Project: this initiative is both a treasure and a gold mine, and I just want to mention AGP 72 dedicated to Babbitt piano work before 1983 played by Robert Taub. It features the content of the old Harmonia Mundi disc that has been out of print for a long while.

A great opportunity to compare renditions by Augustus Arnone and by Robert Taub free of charge  ;D and to realize how inspired and mercurial this music is!







Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Franco on September 15, 2009, 09:55:38 AM
Thanks, Tahar, for this post.  It is very nice to see someone praising Milton Babbitt for his music.  Unfortunately he is usually mentioned only as the bete noir of modern music.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: CD on November 11, 2009, 01:42:13 PM
I've been listening to a lot of Babbitt lately. What got me really interested him was a disc (http://secondsound.blogspot.com/2009/11/milton-babbitt-occasional-variations.html) with his 2nd and 6th quartets and other pieces. The quartets are great: wonderfully fluid rhythms and seemingly-infinite harmonic combinations. Whoever says this music in unemotional is dead wrong — there's a kaleidoscopic variety of mental associations.

I've given the Harmonia Mundi disc of the piano music a few listens. The stringency of the earlier pieces is refreshing; like being on insect-time. The two pieces from the 80s (Canonical Variations and Lagniappe) have Babbitt oft-mentioned wit in spades and even (!) reoccurring themes.

I've found the other three extant quartets (3, 4 and 5; No. 1 is withdrawn) from various recordings (most horribly out of print) through online sources, and will be giving them a listen soon. I'll be glad to upload them for anyone interested.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: greg on November 11, 2009, 04:33:29 PM
So this is really the complete Babbitt catalogue?
If so, I'll definitely download all of this!  :)

"It takes 12 to Tango..." rofl  :D
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Catison on November 11, 2009, 08:12:11 PM
Yes, the quartets are really something.  I've been away from serialist music for awhile, and I have found a recent calling toward their music again.  I'll have to listen to the quartets again.  I forget which ones I have, but I think I have 2-6, though various sources.  Is there a 7th?
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: CD on November 11, 2009, 08:33:21 PM
Nothing on the Wiki page. Has anyone heard his clarinet quintet? The samples from this disc sound really interesting (as does the Feldman):

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61RBujznm-L._SS500_.jpg)

I wonder why Babbitt hasn't got the same treatment as Carter seems to be getting now (with lots of new releases, concerts, etc.)?
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: springrite on November 11, 2009, 09:11:03 PM
The Joy of Sextet, and the follow up work (More Joy of Sextet, or was it The Joy of More Sextet?) are nice works that one would never expect from what one's heard about Babbitt's reputation. They are not hard nuts at all. Wonderful stuff!
Title: New Babbitt SQ Rec.!
Post by: snyprrr on February 14, 2010, 09:06:53 PM
Babbitt's SQ No.4 is on record now with the Lagos Ensemble, with Tristan Keuris' No.1.

oo...exciting! :D
Title: Milton Babbit 1916-2011
Post by: bwv 1080 on January 29, 2011, 05:55:09 PM
RIP Milton

http://www.wqxr.org/articles/wqxr-features/2011/jan/29/milton-babbitt-pioneering-composer-dead-94/ (http://www.wqxr.org/articles/wqxr-features/2011/jan/29/milton-babbitt-pioneering-composer-dead-94/)
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: PaulSC on January 29, 2011, 08:27:19 PM
Thanks for posting the news, it was the first I'd heard of Babbitt's death. RIP, indeed.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: snyprrr on January 30, 2011, 06:25:52 AM
well, that really does leaves only Carter and Boulez.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: CRCulver on January 30, 2011, 06:59:18 AM
well, that really does leaves only Carter and Boulez.

Dutilleux is also ancient and still writing.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: PaulSC on January 30, 2011, 12:58:43 PM
 http://www.youtube.com/v/0gpKea02bjA
 http://www.youtube.com/v/u8B0edBXM8w
 http://www.youtube.com/v/063s1WW7P2Y
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: karlhenning on January 30, 2011, 03:10:23 PM
well, that really does leaves only Carter and Boulez.

Wuorinen is still a relative youngster.
Title: Re: New Babbitt SQ Rec.!
Post by: snyprrr on January 30, 2011, 06:55:25 PM
Babbitt's SQ No.4 is on record now with the Lagos Ensemble, with Tristan Keuris' No.1.

oo...exciting! :D

btw- Composer Dyslexia: it was Kagel, not Babbitt. Does that mean anything? ???

Forgive me, but Babbitt was the strangest looking man,... Yoda as a Turtle? ok, I didn't say that. ::)


I guess I'll throw my two cents in (check later to see if I just repeated what I probably wrote 2 years ago). I haven't heard any of his Nonesuch Sextets, though his Piano Music is right up my alley. It neither enjoyed his piece on that DG disc, nor his piece Relata on a NewWorld disc. I found these orchestral works wearying in that they rely heavily on that piercing, percussive spike attack which causes ear fatigue for me.

I have also sought out his String Quartets. No.5 has only been available on an OOP Music&Arts cd (w/Carter No.4 & Powell '83), and has eluded me my whole career, but it was put on YouTube, and with much anticipation I was disappointed; along with this, I recently heard the Tzadik cd (w/SQ Nos. 2&6), and again, with much anticipation I felt let down.

Which brings me to the Babbitt point. From the first note to the last SQ No.3 (1970) is the uber-serial, ultra refined egghead Masterpiece like no other; well, no, perhaps it would be the heir to Boulez's Livre pour Quatuor (1947?), which itself is heir to Webern's String Trio (1925?). I would welcome a piece more refined than this Babbitt, but it seems to me you float into Feldman territory if you reduce the molecules any more. Yes, this is a bonafide Atomic Piece,... Space Age, utilizing nothing but straight bow, and pizz pluck. Note values are generally short to bloop. It is an inhuman piece, but differently than Xenakis. The cold distance is there though, and that is what I like, the delicate iciness. Brrrr,yum!

SQ No.4 (1970 also) was written right after No.3, and is the more esoteric outgrowth of the previous work's rigid asceticism (No.3, in this stripped essence way, sounds a lot like Webern's mature SQ Op.28). This one contain a few effects (come to think of it, it is very similar to the trajectory of Schoenberg's 3-4). Essentially, this two pieces for a pair, and a beautiful pair they are, haha ::)!!

I think '70-'71 must have been a Height of Total Serialismo Phase I, because I feel as though I do not again hear this particular sound that Babbitt makes (not even he himself, later, in his own SQs (hence my disappointment)), from anyone. I am surprised that it took from Boulez '47 to Babbitt '70 to get the layers of impurities out,... but look, as soon as Purity Appeared,...poof!, it was gone, and the,...ehm, simplicity that is in these pieces has barely been touched on by anyone, I think. Who am I missing?

Does anyone else see these two pieces as singularly as I do? Witness?


BOTTOM LINE: I would recommend the HM Piano Music and the SQs 3-4. The Perfection of Total Serialism in a Nutshell. How could The Computer sound any other way?
Title: Blab It With Babbitt
Post by: snyprrr on August 10, 2011, 08:20:10 PM



BOTTOM LINE: I would recommend the HM Piano Music and the SQs 3-4. The Perfection of Total Serialism in a Nutshell. How could The Computer sound any other way?

Notice how I recommend what I hadn't heard yet? ::) Well, I fiiinally got that HM Taub disc,... and, music aside, I'm not that wild about the rather big recording, and I don't know if I'd rather have had Alan Feinberg playing. I guess I'm so used to Mode's crystalline sound quality on their piano cds that...ha... I just aaaassumed that this old '80s disc was going to have that dream sound. Well, it doesn't.

It's ok, I guess, but, frankly, I don't think Babbitt's music gets its due here,... I don't know. All the early pieces are very very short, though the Partitions and Post-Partitions make an alright pair.

The next four pieces are all about 10mins. a piece. All this music,... maybe it's the recording,... reminds me of the Stockhausen/Kontarsky cd (it had a pretty 'big' sound too,... though different). In a way, Babbitt is very quaint,... it's just that I had such a preconceived notion,... and we know how they can go,... and I'm just kind of eh on this music.

I really think Mode needs to redo this album,... mmm, with Aki Takahashi!!


Anyone have something more intelligent to say about the subject than I? I wanted to like this,... or, assumed I was going to,... and,... I'm just not that crazy about it. What gives?
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: snyprrr on August 14, 2011, 05:35:23 PM
Coming back to this thread dedicated to Milton Babbitt, a musician that I really love and admire, to give a piece of information and a memory.

The piece of information is to let you guys know about the web site of the New Yorker pianist Augustus Arnone

It is called The complete Babbitt Project

During the spring of 2008, Augustus Arnone performed the complete piano works of Milton Babbitt in 2 concerts

Concert I — March 6, 2008

Allegro Penseroso(1999)

It Takes 12 to Tango (1984)

Partitions (1957), Post-Partitions(1966)

Tableaux(1974)

Preludes, Interludes, and Postlude (1991)

Semi-Simple Variations(1956), Minute Waltz (1977)

Tutte Le Corde (1994)

Concert II — June 10, 2008

The Old Order Changeth (1998)

Emblems (Ars Emblematica) (1989)

The ‘Time Series’

Playing For Time (1977)
About Time (1982)
Overtime (1987)

Lagniappe (1985)

My Complements to Roger (1978), Duet (1956)

Canonical Form (1983)

3 Compositions For Piano (1947)

Mr. Arnone accepted that these concerts be recorded and - today - one can freely download the content of these 2 programs on his web site for individual listening or for sharing. The pianist is just requesting one thing from the listener: to mention his name with the downloaded renditions.

This is a very generous initiative, even more so than these renditions are top notch (listen and compare: it is different, but often better than Taub).

I give you the link with both concerts:

June 10, 2008 (http://augustusarnone.com/journal/?cat=8)

March 6, 2008 (http://augustusarnone.com/journal/?cat=8&paged=2)


The memory is still fresh. Last fall 2008, on November 5, at the Miller Theatre inside Columbia University campus, the excellent Zukofsky Quartet played the complete work for String Quartet by Milton Babbitt. The old man was in attendance and was greeted by Jimmy Levine

How much Jimmy loved Babbitt was so obvious and contagious. How great these quartets are was so evident to me. How sharp the mind of the old affable man still was, although the body was tired!

It was an unbelievable concert!!

I just hope the Zukofsky Quartet will now record these pieces.

Last piece of information, I saw a thread dedicated to the Avant Garde Project: this initiative is both a treasure and a gold mine, and I just want to mention AGP 72 dedicated to Babbitt piano work before 1983 played by Robert Taub. It features the content of the old Harmonia Mundi disc that has been out of print for a long while.

A great opportunity to compare renditions by Augustus Arnone and by Robert Taub free of charge  ;D and to realize how inspired and mercurial this music is!

I just checked out these two links, and they still work. All the Babbitt Piano Music played live. I'll have to get that downloaded.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: PaulSC on February 13, 2012, 06:49:32 PM
While the very recent death of Whitney Houston was the big story in the “in memoriam” portion of the Grammy awards show, Milton Babbitt was memorialized not only with a captioned photo during the montage, but with a brief clip of his music (Composition for Synthesizer, maybe?). A nice moment…
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: ibanezmonster on February 14, 2012, 08:17:30 AM
He died over a year ago and I just found out?...  :-\
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on February 14, 2012, 08:22:23 AM
Not much of a habbitt, I guess.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: nochmal on December 16, 2012, 10:53:08 AM
I just hope the Zukofsky Quartet will now record these pieces.

Hidden away in the discography section (http://fulmermusic.com/works/discography) of the website of former Babbitt student and (afaiu) Zukofsky violist David Fulmer, such a release is indeed mentioned as forthcoming. The page says it was last updated in July 2010, though, so I guess one shouldn't hold one's breath...
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: snyprrr on December 16, 2012, 02:23:15 PM
I'd like to hear Aki Takahashi do the Piano Works.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit SOLI e DUETTINI
Post by: snyprrr on June 29, 2014, 06:34:49 AM
Soli e Duettini (Koch Int'l/Naxos)

Flipping through the Used rack, and SNAAAP!,-... and away we went for $1!! This is a crackin' little album of solos and duos that turns out to be, maybe, the go-to Babbitt recital. It would have been nice to have an ensemble work or two, but Babbitt's intricacy guarantees immersion. The work for sax and piano really almost sounds like more than two players.

The IS a new Babbitt CD of ensemble pieces- it's the first CD listed on Amazon- and it too looks like a winner!

Here, quickly, is my Essential Babbitt recommendations:


1) SQ 3
2) SQ 4- both on two separate CRI recitals

3) 'The Joy of Sextets'- violin & piano

4) the 'New' ensemble CD mentioned above
5) the ensemble CD on Bridge with the hideous cover (MOST hideous)

6) the Koch/Naxos 'Soli e Duettini'

7) Piano Concerto

8- opps, forgot the Taub and Goldray discs for the Piano Music (though, we really need Aki takahashi here). Taub is accused of being sloppy.


Really, that's about it except for individual pieces here and there. Any one of these will put you right smack in the middle of Babbittland.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit JOY OF SEXTETS
Post by: snyprrr on July 07, 2014, 07:11:55 AM
Can anyone recommend the violin/piano duo album 'The Joy of Sextets'? As if I need confirmation, duh. ::) But anyone have and love?
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit JOY OF SEXTETS
Post by: snyprrr on February 03, 2016, 08:05:58 AM
Can anyone recommend the violin/piano duo album 'The Joy of Sextets'? As if I need confirmation, duh. ::) But anyone have and love?

Yes, I just got it for you. Great fun, 40 mins. of Babbitt piano/violin.... what else is there to say???
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit THE ESSENTIAL BABBITT
Post by: snyprrr on February 03, 2016, 08:44:06 AM
THE ESSENTIAL  BABBITT:


1) PIANO MUSIC: one MUST get the Taub and G
   
Post-Partitions
by Robert Miller
   3:38    
   
$0.99
oldray discs. Some say Taub is a little rough, but I like it dirrrty, so... Goldray is just pristine. Anyhow, the Piano Music is
                               probably the first place to go with Babbitt. Nonkin also has a single late piece recorded. The best overall Total Serialist Piano Music, imo. If you can tell me
                               some others that also have a distinctive computer-like sound to them, I'm all ears!

2) PIANO/VIOLIN: continuing on, you MUST get the 'Sextets/ More Joy of Sextets' (NewWorld), as it simply extends the fun from above.

3) PIANO CONCERTO: (NewWorld) I've aaalways loved this piece, so chilly and objective, ... it's almost the perfect Feldman piece I think... the other piece, with soprano
                                          and four players, is a little noodly for me- it still sounds the same, I'm just not all that into the singing, as good as it is...

4) STRING QUARTETS 3-4: same artists as before. 3 is my favored Babbitt listening because the music is so plink-plonky, AND, the dry acoustic actually almost makes it
                                                  sound computer-ish. Both are quite florid and fragile, Total Serialism at its finest, imo.

5) 'SOLI E DUETTINI': the Koch/Naxos disc of solos and duets. For some reason, I only like "solo" or "duet" Babbitt- the ensemble pieces seem to get a bit noisy for me,
                                       and I mean most all of them. For me, Babbitt is complex enough for maybe up to three players, then,maybe, it gets too much for me- or, I like if the
                                       ensemble is homogenous (ie-SQs)


6) 'CORRESPONDENSES (DG) & 'TRANSFIGURED NOTES': i WAS WONDERING WHY i LIKED THESE ORCHESTRAL WORKS BUT NOT THE NOISER 'rELATA 1', AND i
                                                                                                           noted that they were both for 'String Orchestra', so, again, Babbitt wins with like textures. I think these two are
                                                                                                           great pieces.



7) TZADIK DISC: this has the early, Berio/Maderna sounding SQ2, the late masterpiece SQ6, the groovy 'Occastional Variations', and the very plink=plonky guitar piece. I'm
                               not too happy with the sound in SQ6, but it's good. The SQ2 is an LP reissue.

8) SQ5: available only on Music&Arts (with Powell & Carter)- I only put this here for completion's sake. I do prefer SQs 3-4 over 5-6, mostly for the "classic feel" of those two.
              5-6 I still haven't completely gotten in to...





I can really do without all the rest, though, the 'Philomel' recording might make it one day, just for giggles. But, frankly, there's not thaaat much Babbitt out there- a lot of his songs are scattered over a bunch of CRI releases, and a few small pieces here and there... I did "drop" both the newer Boston Babbitt Project CD, and the Bridge CD with the awful cover: nothing wrong with the former, just "too much" for me right now, and, the latter really only has the one ensemble work that's interesting, which also appears on another CD. The organ piece on that disc is my least favored Babbitt so far, after 'Relata1'. And, there is only a solo clarinet piece (not the most special solo cl. I've ever heard, at 15mins.), and a short soprano/2 clarinet piece, and that's it, so, that Bridge disc isn't really as special as previously thought, imo.

Anyhow, that's my Essential Babbitt. There's really not much, but, what there is is complex enough for many many listens.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: bwv 1080 on February 03, 2016, 08:49:50 AM
This qualifies as essential

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61-OdfyoaSL._SS280.jpg)

And you also need the guitar piece Sheer Pluck
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Rons_talking on February 05, 2016, 06:40:39 AM
This qualifies as essential

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61-OdfyoaSL._SS280.jpg)

And you also need the guitar piece Sheer Pluck

All Set is one of my favorite Babbit works. A serial work for jazz musicians! A great sounding piece...
Title: Happy 100th, Milton Babbitt (d. 2011)
Post by: Brewski on May 10, 2016, 06:05:03 AM
Today Milton Babbitt would have been 100 years old. Just now I listened to Correspondences for string orchestra and synthesized tape (1967), and will explore some of his other works later. It took me quite a few years to "get" much of his output, and though he is not a composer I listen to often, the more I hear, the more I like.

What did the trick, years ago, is a live performance of The Head of the Bed (1982) with Judith Bettina (soprano), James Levine, and members of the Met Orchestra. (Even her recording, done years earlier, didn't unlock it for me.)

He was a regular presence at new music concerts in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, and was known for having a sly sense of humor. Now I wish we'd had the chance to have lunch.

Correspondences (1967, recorded by James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1990)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF-l2OFHs5I

--Bruce
Title: Re: Happy 100th, Milton Babbitt (d. 2011)
Post by: snyprrr on May 10, 2016, 06:18:07 AM
Today Milton Babbitt would have been 100 years old. Just now I listened to Correspondences for string orchestra and synthesized tape (1967), and will explore some of his other works later. It took me quite a few years to "get" much of his output, and though he is not a composer I listen to often, the more I hear, the more I like.

What did the trick, years ago, is a live performance of The Head of the Bed (1982) with Judith Bettina (soprano), James Levine, and members of the Met Orchestra. (Even her recording, done years earlier, didn't unlock it for me.)

He was a regular presence at new music concerts in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, and was known for having a sly sense of humor. Now I wish we'd had the chance to have lunch.

Correspondences (1967, recorded by James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1990)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF-l2OFHs5I

--Bruce

WE MUST BE ON A WAVELENGTH HERE...whoops


'Correspondences' is just too likable a Babbitt piece to start with, no? But, yes, I like his "strings only" works like that and the 'Transfigured Notes'. There other Orchestral Works are a bit noisy for me.


I picked up the Goldray and Nonkin discs, but that just makes one yearn for more Piano Music like his earlier stuff... Babbitt at least always uses a lot of notes... the most notes that I like (as opposed to Ferneyhough, who seems to use all the notes I don't like, lol)
Title: Re: Happy 100th, Milton Babbitt (d. 2011)
Post by: EigenUser on May 10, 2016, 10:47:55 AM
Today Milton Babbitt would have been 100 years old. Just now I listened to Correspondences for string orchestra and synthesized tape (1967), and will explore some of his other works later. It took me quite a few years to "get" much of his output, and though he is not a composer I listen to often, the more I hear, the more I like.

What did the trick, years ago, is a live performance of The Head of the Bed (1982) with Judith Bettina (soprano), James Levine, and members of the Met Orchestra. (Even her recording, done years earlier, didn't unlock it for me.)

He was a regular presence at new music concerts in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, and was known for having a sly sense of humor. Now I wish we'd had the chance to have lunch.

Correspondences (1967, recorded by James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1990)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF-l2OFHs5I

--Bruce
Bruce, are you familiar with his All Set for jazz band? That is a very fun piece. I love the title, too (play on words since the piece is based off of set theory). I recall liking Transfigured Notes a lot, too.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit Why Am I Such A Babbitt Junkie???
Post by: snyprrr on January 12, 2017, 04:17:59 PM
Only Babbitt's Piano Music plinks-and-plonks just the way I want it to, all mathematical and computer sounding, space age, trim and clean yet overtly complex.

But, in my zeal, I found I probably won't want to acquire the Complete Babbitt Discography, as it stands. His Piano Music, and the Solos and Duos (though, ONLY the solos and duos) and the Piano Concerto are what I return to again and again, namely, the Taub&Goldray discs, the Koch/Naxos disc, and the PC NewWorld.

Along with those, the String Quartets 3-4 (1970?1?) (Music&Arts, CRI) actually top the list. The recording of SQ3, a vintage one from I believe 1971, is like the most perfectly realized laboratory experiment I've heard, though, there was a moment in the Quartetto Italiano's Webern. But here, the Pointallistic music is aided by the ultra dry recording, with just the right tight "bounce" to make all the notes sound like actual particles bouncing around inside a "game".


So, as for listening, I'm not all that hip on Babbitt's vocal classicsm including the 'Philomel' and 'Phenomena' (I mean, they're fine, I just don't want right now) and the flip side of the Piano Concerto, 'The Head on the Bed'. (if anyone would like to discuss that piece, that's the one piece I try and again to get through with pleasure)

And for some reason, Babbitt's Ensemble/Chamber Music I find quite dreary. 'Septet But Equal' and 'Four Play' and maybe 'Arie da Capo' I found to sound like the stochastic bits of early Xenakis, all uber random to the point of sonic briar patch. The other pieces, off of that Boston set, are also quite loud and not the kind of thing I like in Babbitt. The jazz piece I don't particularly ...eh. And the Clarinet Quintet,... eh, maybe I'll try it again later... I didn't particularly like the aggressive strings of the String Quartet No.5, either, so far from the delicacies of 3-4. If you ask me about SQ6 I might just say I didn't like what he was doing with Strings in the 80s... though I did much like 'Transfigured Notes',... and 'Correspondences' has that echt modern sound I love (DG)...


Sometimes I think it's the Babbitt of 1971 that I like! More like 1966-1974, but, the works are few.

I want more of the Babbitt I want, but ... there isn't any. :(
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit 'Time Cycle'
Post by: snyprrr on January 26, 2017, 01:43:22 PM
Playing for Time (1977)
About Time (1982)
Overtime (1986)

'Time Cycle' for Piano

All three pieces use the same material, to vastly different ends. The first and third clock in at around three minutes, but 'About Time' is one of Babbitt's most extended and concentrated works for piano; in a field of similarly complex masterworks, 'About Time' seems to stand out as the smoothest and most fun 12mins. of Babbitt's brand of Total Serialism.

Alan Feinberg has recorded 'Playing for Time; twice (CRI and Argo). At 2:30, and 3:00, respectively, one gets to hear two different takes by the same person of some of the most Abstract Piano Music ever written. I can sit there and just go back and forth between the two and hear so many interesting points of comparison. Feinberg's recording of 'About Time' sounds a lot like the piano music for the two 'Sextets' works- very smooth and delicate, everything one likes about Babbitt.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: snyprrr on May 21, 2018, 06:36:01 AM
Maybe we'll just move from Satie to Babbitt? It certainly wasn't that long ago that we were discussing on this Thread. I would love to hear a brilliant Complete Piano Music Cycle to come out.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Uhor on April 03, 2020, 08:30:02 PM
Really enjoying his very colourful concerto for orchestra https://soundcloud.com/serial-killers-170423636/concerti
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: vers la flamme on April 04, 2020, 05:07:11 AM
I just found a long OOP disc I've been looking for, brand new, for cheap...: Babbitt Piano Works w/ Robert Taub. I'm trying not to buy music now, but I had to pull the trigger. Excited to check it out:

(https://i.postimg.cc/TYnY9Mz9/image-2020-04-04-T090246-599.jpg)

Also wanted to notify people to this enticing digital release...:

https://erikcarlson.bandcamp.com/album/milton-babbitt-string-quartets

Babbitt's complete string quartets w/ the Ars Combinatoria String Quartet. I haven't bought it yet but I've been listening on Bandcamp occasionally. Very interesting music.

I have a lot of respect for Babbitt but I have yet to really explore his music in earnest.
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: Mahlerian on April 04, 2020, 05:25:17 AM
The video essay series on Babbitt's music here is very approachable, even for people without a significant music theory background, and probably helps to explain some of the appeal of his work to non-specialists:
http://www.smt-v.org/archives/volume5.html
Title: Re: The Babbitt Habit
Post by: vers la flamme on April 04, 2020, 05:37:10 AM
The video essay series on Babbitt's music here is very approachable, even for people without a significant music theory background, and probably helps to explain some of the appeal of his work to non-specialists:
http://www.smt-v.org/archives/volume5.html

Fascinating, thanks!
Title: Re: Happy 100th, Milton Babbitt (d. 2011)
Post by: T. D. on April 04, 2020, 07:54:07 AM
Today Milton Babbitt would have been 100 years old. ...

He was a regular presence at new music concerts in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, and was known for having a sly sense of humor. Now I wish we'd had the chance to have lunch.

Yes, I often saw Babbitt at Merkin Concert Hall in the '90s. [Rambling] Attendance at many Merkin events was uh, less than overwhelming (in the 20s iirc), so it was easy to pick out familiar faces. Merkin concerts could often be attended gratis if you phoned an organization called the "Concert Theatre Club" in advance... ;) I'm not a composer or knowledgeable about theory, so never considered saying anything to MB.
I just found a long OOP disc I've been looking for, brand new, for cheap...: Babbitt Piano Works w/ Robert Taub. I'm trying not to buy music now, but I had to pull the trigger. Excited to check it out:

(https://i.postimg.cc/TYnY9Mz9/image-2020-04-04-T090246-599.jpg)

That's a good one. Funny about availability; back in the day it languished in cutout bins and on BRO shelves for years. I'm also fond of the old CD including Elizabethan Sextette with Bethany Beardslee, which I found surprisingly "accessible". I enjoy Babbitt's piano music (Alan Feinberg is also good), but it depends on the performer (Marilyn Nonken seemed less convincing). [Rambling] I'd really like to hear Pi-Hsien Chen play some Babbitt works!
Title: Re: Happy 100th, Milton Babbitt (d. 2011)
Post by: vers la flamme on April 04, 2020, 12:05:12 PM
Yes, I often saw Babbitt at Merkin Concert Hall in the '90s. [Rambling] Attendance at many Merkin events was uh, less than overwhelming (in the 20s iirc), so it was easy to pick out familiar faces. Merkin concerts could often be attended gratis if you phoned an organization called the "Concert Theatre Club" in advance... ;) I'm not a composer or knowledgeable about theory, so never considered saying anything to MB.That's a good one. Funny about availability; back in the day it languished in cutout bins and on BRO shelves for years. I'm also fond of the old CD including Elizabethan Sextette with Bethany Beardslee, which I found surprisingly "accessible". I enjoy Babbitt's piano music (Alan Feinberg is also good), but it depends on the performer (Marilyn Nonken seemed less convincing). [Rambling] I'd really like to hear Pi-Hsien Chen play some Babbitt works!

I'm a fan of Ms. Chen in Stockhausen, Schoenberg, Boulez etc; I think she could hit it home with this music.