babbitt


i'm not one for wanting schoenberg as a lullaby. still, when milton babbitt passed into the eternal abode of arcadia today, i felt amiss owning only two recordings of his compositions, the furiously strange and powerful "piano works" performed and maneuvered by a taut robert taub and "sextets" together with "more sextets" personified by rolf schulte and alan feinberg.


now, mind you, babbitt is not an easy listen. he demands attention, it's hard to smoke a cigar and listen to this mystery of none-tonal music at the same time. if even i were a schoenberg, i couldn't do it. there is beauty, no question, then again what exactly is beauty in a piece as violent as "semi-simple variations"? or that thirty some second arpeggio, wildly and mildly atonal, written apparently as a gift to his daughter. it is late 20th century music and as such qualifies by now considerate classical. but if you think you could take a pre-dinner snooze, feet up on the table, your butt deep in the couch, and a neat scotch in hand, forget about it. such lively dynamics, a fillmore's savage turbulence alike a very piano molto pianissssssimo, will keep your ears honest and your mind rendered to that devilishly fast and intensive deliverance. 
now, the joke of "more sextets" is the humor of classic babbittuan. plain "sextets" is the second rendering on this particular cd done by rolf schulte, violin and alan feinberg's prompt piano. babbitt's gamut gets jazzy in these pieces, the sound of schulte's violin is sweetly romantic and i like that, if overall the spectrum of these performances has a terrific feel for feinberg's high voice piano contrasting the violin's darker sweep. 
so, i was having my feet up, ears at an angle, my head deeply concerned how best to follow such ravishing dissonance. mildly succeeding, if only in that zen kind'a way, turning my wandering mind back to the task of such implications as heeding sublime beauty, an open mind, listening intently, again and again.