Occultism, farce and Milton Babbitt
Despite inhabiting the twilight zone between occultism and farce, my recent post on why live classical music sounds better than recordings attracted a gratifyingly large readership. The Rudolf Steiner inspired explanation came from Joscelyn Godwin's provocative book Harmonies of Heaven and Earth. It is very easy to dismiss a book with chapters titled 'Kepler's Planetary Music', 'Tone Zodiac', and 'Gurdjieff's Law of Octaves', as New Age babble. But that is a dualistic viewpoint. As another quote from this eclectic volume shows:
Milton Babbitt [seen above]... admits that totally serial music is and will always be a concern for the very few. 'Who cares if you listen?' is the title of one of his articles. Yet for those who have penetrated his music, there is a satisfaction akin to that of higher mathematics, in which a perception of order upon order, of realms of totally logical organization, reunites the cerebral intellect with the sense of wonder and the charm of scintillating tone. In Babbitt's composition the goal is reached of a musical microcosm, complete, balanced, and accountable in its every detail, obeying laws sufficient to itself.No review samples used in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.
This is staggeringly naive, showing total ignorance of just what goes on in academe, especially the politics in departments, extending sometimes to the university as a whole. It is simply a given that those political shenanigans make a university office a more dangerous lair than an office on the executive floor of any multinational corporate conglomerate. And that's why, contra Babbitt, there's one hell of a lot more to the annual review of an academic than the quality of his or her output, from which it follows that Babbitt's notion of a friendly, cosy, objective assessment of compositions issuing from composers in academe is piffle. The result is that the third-rate may well garner the greatest rewards. Let us remember: there are fashions in serious music, and by God, you'd better be on top of them. It's largely a matter of where the preponderance of your colleagues are headed and if you are following. I find the paragraph quoted a touch confusing -- at least out of context, I'm not sure why that article is cited and if the author understood it correctly.