Close Reading of Milton Babbitt’s Who Cares if You Listen? ”To this day, it is seized as evidence that he and his ilk are contemptuous of audiences’ wrote. Milton Babbitt’s notorious essay “Who Cares if You Listen“, published in in a magazine “cryptically” (as Babbitt put it) called High Fidelity. I thought I would re-visit an article I remember reading in an undergraduate “ Music since ” course – Milton Babbitt’s famous Who Cares if.

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In fact, mainstream audiences disliked their work, preferring the music of traditionalists who retained links with tonality: Press 53 August 7, Zalman Kelber is a piano accompanist and opera coach.

It is this high degree of “determinancy” that most strikingly differentiates carees music from, for example, a popular song. In fact, some years earlier, he stated that the title he sent to High Carea was “The Composer as Specialist” Babbitt17notwithstanding the article’s opening line.

Even the concert-going experience itself needs to be redesigned for new wuo to thrive. Rather, it is a result of a half-century of revolution in musical thought, a revolution whose nature and consequences can be compared only with, and in many respects are closely analogous to, those of the mid-nineteenth-century evolution in theoretical physics The immediate and profound effect has been the necessity of the informed musician to reexamine and probe the very foundations of his art.

Full-bodied Prose April 5, At best, the music would appear to be for, of, and by specialists. Goehr, in making this statement, hits the nail on the head.

Who Cares if You Listen – Wikipedia

We may feel, again with some justice, that to omit the expected criticism of the “advanced” work would be to do the composer an injustice in his assumed quest for, if nothing else, public notice and “professional recognition.

Forbes and George A. Cres will go to his grave famous for, among other things, a piece of prose whose published title—Who Cares If You Listen? There is a visual aspect to musical engagement that must also be taken into account, even if it is solely in the form of marketing and does not actually add any value to the musical experience.


Da Capo Press,— A Suicide December 28, Retrieved from ” https: Da Capo Press, Babbitt was a practitioner of integral serialismwhich in his hands could be a highly technical mode of musical composition.

As Adorno looked to the extremes to find truth in its most useful form for argument, the beginning of this examination of the divide between modern classical music and, essentially, everything else, will begin with its starkest opposition. In the words of Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times”To this day, it is seized as evidence that he and his ilk are contemptuous of audiences” Tommasini These tactics contrast with those of composers like Janacek, Bartok and Debussy, who never advocated antagonistic battles or felt that alternative visions needed to be suppressed in the name of progress” Beckerman It is only the translation of this boredom and puzzlement into resentment and denunciation that seems to me indefensible.

As such- that no theoretical argument is made- the social circumstances that prompted his tirade must be examined. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Charles Rosen and Julian Lloyd Webber, and numerous other commentators on the subject, complain of the prevalence of commercial image in attracting an audience to a work or performance, be it the nearly-nude female violinist on an album cover or the clearly intentionally flying hair of Lang Lang.

Skip to main content. Informal concert situations such as these allow the listeners a more direct engagement with the music.

The Music of Sabrina Iv. This music employs a tonal vocabulary which is more “efficient” than that of the music of the past, or its derivatives. Tommasini was not the only one to have pointed out that Babbitt’s protests about the title “may sound like revisionist spin control” Tommasini Granting to music the position accorded other arts and sciences promises the sole substantial means of survival for the music I have been describing.

Mausoleum July 24, Babbitt attempts to say that it is wrong for the public to express an opinion on things that they do not know much on, but I disagree.


Who Cares if They Listen: Milton Babbitt’s Legacy

Advanced music cannot and is not intended to be understood by the uneducated concert-goer. Copland, Barber, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Britten. It is only the translation of this boredom and puzzlement into resentment and denunciation that seems to me indefensible. I do question whether these differences, by their nature, justify the denial to music’s development of assistance granted these other fields. Curiously, their demurrers usually take the listeb form of some such “democratic” counterdefinition as: I recently attended the Second Annual Festival of American Music in London, put on by the chamber ensemble Lontano, and was sadly unsurprised that a concert full vabbitt world premiere performances managed to draw an audience of only thirty.

As anyone who read my last post on Lori Freedman knows, I freely admit to not always being a lover of contemporary music. A casual listener with a forgivable, of course skepticism of contemporary classical music—or perhaps a disinterest in or disapproval of modern art in general—would hear this kind of music as essentially random notes without any discernible melodic or harmonic structure. We’d love to receive a contribution from you too. Classical music is in bad shape.

After all, the public does have its own music, its ubiquitous music: It is only proper that the university, which-significantly-has provided so many contemporary composers with their professional training and general education, should provide a home for the “complex,” “difficult,” and “problematical” in music.

Rosen thinks it is: Like all communication, this music presupposes a suitably equipped receptor. Neither does it mean that a highly educated listener must enjoy the music, even if they understand and appreciate its genesis. One answer is that after all such a private life is what the university provides the scholar and carss scientist.