30 January 2011

Milton Babbitt

Farewell to an iconoclast. Read his obituary here. From Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise:
Thick dissonances are rare; like Japanese drawings, Babbitt's scores are full of empty space. What's more, the harmonies are in many places surprisingly simple and sweet. Six bars into the second of the Three Compositions for Piano there is, out of nowhere, a loud B-flat major triad. Before you can come to terms with the psychological effects of such "tonal puns," they disappear, like half-familiar faces in a crowd. This rigorously organized music ends up feeling mysteriously prankish, antic, loosey-goosey; it shuffles and shimmies like jazz from another planet. (pp. 403-404)

See also the jazz-influenced side of Babbitt, in All Set for jazz ensemble:

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