25 thoughts on “Milton Babbitt On Electronic Music (1966)

  1. Awesome
    Do people still speak with such precision, purpose, & eloquence?
    Always good to be reacquainted, and refreshed, with the very concepts that turned lights on for us.

    1. Sadly no. The English language is being destroyed and replaced with something FAR less expressive, precise or eloquent. Cultural Anthropologists will tell you that language is culture. And the state of our language reflects the general decline of Western Civilization in general and the English-speaking world in general …IMO.

      1. I read this comment to my dog and he just started screaming like a human man.

        Hilarious how you “Muh Western Civilization” types are defending a literal musical modernist now. Makes me wonder if your knowledge of the world is completely ahistorical and based on Hollywood and video games.

        Oh, wait.

        1. An effect of latent Anglocentrism, perhaps?

          Eloquence, precision, and purpose have all been prominent across the World, demonstrated in thousands of languages which are all immensely dynamic and equally expressive. We can easily forgive the improper assessment of such traits by readers whose language community adopts too strict a set of boundaries.

          In addition, older language patterns often feel deeper because of their quaintness. For instance, in a simple experiment in 1991, students in a class of close to 300 were stupefied to learn that they had incorrectly guessed the speaker’s age between two speech recordings. They thought that the first speaker must be in her fifties and that the second one should be in her thirties. Both recordings were from the same speaker. The first excerpt was recorded in 1970 with a university professor in her thirties. The second snippet contained informal speech from that same person in 1980.

          Language change is continuous and powerful. Should we not embrace it?

    1. Totally agree, Jm2c. The vast majority of what is called, “electronic music” today is nothing more than disco and always sounds like music FOR robots made BY robots.

      1. I believe there are two reasons for this:

        (1) Back in the ’60s, they were making it up as they went along; rules regarding song structure, tempo, tonality, timbre etc were malleable and free of preconceived ideas;

        (2) There was no concern regarding the commercial potential of the software or the music they were making with computers.

        What has happened since then is that sound design and generation have been largely codified, and the need to make a profit from music software (DAWs and plugins) means designing products that will appeal to the largest possible audience, letting them make (for lack of a better term) ‘popular’ electronic music.

        I am a dedicated Reason user. I would kill if Reason would allow me to more easily create polyrhythmic music, circumventing the tyranny of the master clock (a la Nancarrow – a fraction of the devices available in Reason provide this), and microtonality – to name but a few features not well supported in the environment. I doubt I will see these features added in my lifetime, because the overwhelming majority of users just want to make music in 4/4 time using the well-tempered scale, and it is those users who pay the bills and keep the lights on at Reason Studios.

        Any DAW that does support making music that allows users to think outside the box suffers from less than intuitive user interfaces, poor integration with other music software, and/or a bigger hit to the pocketbook.)

        (NB: I expect and am hoping this rant will get some responses pointing out software I should check out – bring it on, I’m all ears. Some will likely point me to Max For Live – I am aware of it, but I have trouble wrapping my head around the Ableton UI, Max For Live strikes me as a glommed on plug-in living within the Ableton UI, and being on a fixed income at this point, it’s out of reach expense-wise.)

    2. There are plenty of people still pushing the envelope in exactly this way. It just isn’t in the world of popular music. This kind of thing falls very much into the world of ‘academic art music’. Many of these types of pieces are meant to demonstrate some new process or method rather than to be the kind of music someone goes to a dance club to listen to. All the variations between the most common house track to the wildest academic composition have their places. Complaining about ‘…the derivative crap people are releasing…’ says more about your own experience and awareness of what’s out there than it does about the actual music being made.

  2. I could listen to him talk all day, but the music does nothing for me.

    The intellectualization of classical music kind of reached a dead-end in the 60s and got a much-needed reset by the minimalists in the 70’s.

    As jm2c said though, this sort of exposes 90% of the so-called ‘experimental’ performances you see on YouTube as wankery.

  3. I befriended Milton In this life. I was his honored guest at his 80th Birthday gala at Harvard. He walked with. Me with locked elbows, as his wife walked beside us. Ha, none of you ever gave me or my music, since 1992, a minute. Enjoy our arresting of the cabal this week. WWG1WGA, Roman Stange, The San Francisco School For The Dada, Oh Say Hi To My Buddy JFK Jr. I’m yelling Timber.

  4. oh good, i was hoping to get some casual white supremacy and insane QAnon gibberish with my mid-century new classical and the ungracefully aging Ponytails of synthtopia didn’t let me down on either count. well done gents.

    cool videos though.

    1. Damn, you picked up on that too huh? Didn’t see anything EXPRESSLY Qanon, must have been deleted before I got here. Bit disappointed, but I can’t fault the mod team for that.

      1. ah, you failed to notice “wwg1wwga” in R’s post. “where we go one we go all”, a nonsensical QAnon slogan. but i’m glad you noticed the racism in the first couple replies

        1. ahahaha oh my god

          y’all. milton babbitt is literally Jewish. at least be CONSISTENT with your headass bigotry. it might fool people into thinking that you aren’t just incredibly stupid 😛

            1. Oh, I’m not saying either. I’m just pointing out that from what I can tell, most people into Q crap Don’t Really Like Jewish People.

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