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 short, more concerts equates to higher visibility for this music. Schenker managed to develop a method of reducing any piece of music so that it was intelligible, for want of a better word, so why should the music that Babbitt is writing about be any different; he has given it an undeserved reverence in my opinion. Routledge,xvi. In academic circles, those composers were sneered at, viewed as expendable fossils from a bygone age” Schwarz Now, I do understand his points, and agree that many listeners are immediately dismissive of challenging music without trying to really hear it.

On the other, “Although the essay does not actually express the sentiment of its false title, one could, on a cursory reading, perhaps, get that out of it” Lister Forbes and George A.

Who Cares if You Listen – Wikipedia

In following this course, music would move strongly toward becoming an object solely for babibtt contemplation, and away from any sort of visceral experience of emotional qualia. Or, perhaps, in search of “real” authority, he has acquired his critical vocabulary from the yku of officially “eminent” composers, whose eminence, in turn, is founded largely upon just such assertions as the concertgoer has learned to regurgitate. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulationtrans. Where did this conception come from?

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I Care If You Listen

Classical music is in bad shape. In indicating the most general of these properties, I shall make reference to no specific works, since I wish to avoid the independent issue of evaluation. Or those, often the same well-meaning souls, who remind the composer of his “obligation to the public,” while the public’s obligation to the composer is fulfilled, manifestly, by mere physical presence in the concert hall or before loudspeaker or- more authoritatively- by committing to memory the numbers of phonograph and amplifier models.


Dzanc Books September 18, 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.

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Copland, Barber, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Britten. Locked Horn Press November 21, Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. But music will cease to evolve, and, in that important sense, will cease to live. 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.

Another aspect Babbitt appears to fail to appreciate is that Heinrich Schenker produced a method of reducing tonal music to its bare constituents to highlight how the harmonies of a piece of music operates in a particular piece Schenkerian Analysis.

His interlocutor understandably disqualifies these reasons as irrelevant to the content and value fares the lecture, and the development of mathematics is left undisturbed. It gets even creepier if you have read about Philomelathe story upon which this work was based. His argument is that the intricacies of such advanced music babbirt only be understood by a person that has had an extensive education in music history and theory.

Not everyone believes this is a bad thing. Consequently, the music is little performed, and then primarily at poorly attended concerts before an audience consisting in the main of fellow professionals.

Plumbago, In fact, tone music is based on an extremely complex and rigorous organization of musical pitches.

But to this, a double standard is invoked, with the words music is music,” implying also that “music is just music. The Escape Artists December 27, 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 id concert of your own at a local bar or coffee shop or park, or bookstore, art abbbitt, or street-corner… is so easy, so accessible to anyone?


These five components not only together define the single event, but, in the course of a work, the successive values of each component create an individually coherent structure, frequently in parallel with the corresponding structures created by each of the other components.

Granting to music the position accorded other arts and sciences promises the sole substantial means of survival for the music I have been describing. Then Palej went on to describe how the piece is an homage to Olivier Messiaen. Another interpretation was proposed by Joseph N. Green Linden Press December 17, If the concertgoer listn at all versed in the babnitt of musical lifesmanship, he also will offer reasons for his “I didn’t like it” carse in the form of assertions that the work in question is “inexpressive,” “undramatic,” “lacking in poetry,” etc.

Why refuse to recognize the possibility that contemporary music has reached a stage long since attained by other forms of activity? Thankfully, this is not always the case.

He also points out the successes within art circles of certain ic composers: Bands like this have found wide commercial success while maintaining their technical means and artistic integrity.

Compositions so rooted necessarily ask comparable knowledge and experience from the listener. Separate myself as a listener from myself as a performer. From this evidence the author concluded, “As the period drew to a close, the American academy was dominated, as it had been throughout the s and s, by tonally oriented composers” Straus That is, the structural characteristics of a given work are less representative of a general class of characteristics than they are unique to the individual work itself.

Who Cares if You Listen

Consider, for instance, the Ford Foundation, an influential non profit institution around since the s. Perhaps for the same reason, the various institutes of advanced research and the large majority of foundations have disregarded this music’s need for means of survival. You may also like. This is apparent kisten everything from the focus of political news coverage to the size of vocabulary used by candidates, even as overall educational attainment in the US has risen.