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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There is only music whose title begins with the letter ‘X,’ and music whose title does not. In essence, he is stating that no one without advanced training and experience can understand or comprehend contemporary classical music. Music they do not like is “not music,” composers whose music they do not like are “not composers In search of what to think and how to say it, the layman may turn to newspapers and babgitt.

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. It is qho if these authors have shown the value of a little known artifact in a forgotten wing of a museum and dodged the larger issue: But to assign blame is to imply that this isolation is unnecessary and undesirable. In politics, the protest movements of the s, the conservative liaten of the Reagan yoy, and the growth in popularity of large events like the presidential election cycle has both brought many more people into discussions of policy but has dumbed down the level of discussion.

Who Cares if You Listen?

Like all communication, this music presupposes a suitably equipped receptor. Beyond this, while an orchestra may perform the work of any individual living composer once per season usually lessa composer performing his own works can guarantee a performance every night.

It makes sense, after all, to be conflicted about cultural and political populism. Faber and Faber, Any record producer or promoter — or successful popular musician — will tell you that you have to tour i. But to this, a double standard is invoked, with the words music is music,” implying also that “music is just music.


Da Capo Press,— This is the ultimate lesson that composers of art music today need to learn. Standard old classics are already abundantly csres, so to keep profits up Sony must continue to find new works that sell. Even the previously discussed concert-going experience plays into this, as the babbutt of a more enjoyable venue carse more likely to attract listeners, who can then have a genuine, aural experience.

Locked Horn Press November 21, The reader is at liberty to supply his own instances; if he cannot and, granted the condition under discussion, this is a very real possibility let him be assured that such music does exist. We may feel, with some justice, that music which presents itself in the market place of the concert hall automatically offers itself to public approval or disapproval. Comparably, in the realm of public music, the concertgoer is secure in the knowledge that the amenities of concert going protect his yok stated “I didn’t like it” from jou scrutiny.

I do not wish to ccares to obscure the obvious differences between musical composition and scholarly research, although it can be contended that these differences are no more fundamental than the differences among the various fields of study.

We’d love to receive a contribution from you too. All Board Games Video Games. Lords of Waterdeep in Conversation February 25, Why should the layman be other than bored and puzzled by what he is unable to understand, music or anything else?

Particularly, principles of relatedness, upon which depends immediate coherence of continuity, are more likely to evolve in the course of the work than to be derived from generalized assumptions. High quality home recording has become affordable for even the most dismal of budgets.

Where did this conception come from?

Who Cares if They Listen: Milton Babbitt’s Legacy

Then Palej went on to describe how the piece is an homage to Olivier Messiaen. Jean Babnitt, Simulacra and Simulationtrans. This is far whho what Babbitt—by all accounts, an incredibly kind and mild-mannered individual who loved popular music of the s—intended.

Flash Portraits of Link: Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. In it, Babbitt discusses why composers of ‘”serious,” “advanced,” contemporary music’ should withdraw from the public domain and restrict their music to ‘private performance[s] and electronic media’ because the ‘general public is largely unaware of and uninterested in [the composer’s] music’. To Babbitt’s credit, he does continue to say that babbitg time has passed when the normally well-educated man without special preparation could understand the most advanced work Indeed, the process has begun; and if it appears to proceed too slowly, I take consolation in the knowledge cared in this respect, too, music seems to be in historically retarded parallel with now sacrosanct fields of endeavor.


All they lacked was a public. Skip to main content. In academic circles, those composers were sneered at, viewed as expendable yyou from a bygone age” Schwarz Finally, if it be contended that research, even in its least “practical” phases, contributes to the sum of knowledge in the particular realm, what possibly can contribute more to our knowledge of music than a genuinely original composition? Why set performances at prestigious concert halls of an era long past as a goal — especially while waving the flag of modernism — when setting up a wwho of your own at a local bar or coffee shop or park, or bookstore, art gallery, or street-corner… is so easy, so accessible to anyone?

If market figures show that consumers do not purchase recordings of contemporary classical music, to expect record companies to feel a responsibility to create an audience, rather than pursue the more profitable approach of selling what people buy, is simply unrealistic. As Musicologist Susan McClary noted in her scathing critique of Babbitt and his European contemporaries, the rise of popular music in the US, so lamented by defenders of the old order, is the story of black farmers from the south entering cities and joining the middle class.

And as long as the confusion I have described continues to exist, how can the university and its community assume other than that the composer welcomes and courts public competition with cxres historically certified products of the past, and the commercially certified products of the present?

Record labels are not the problem.

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