Milton Babbitt: Sextets/The Joy of More Sextets
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80364     Release Date: 1988-01-01
Professor at both Princeton and Juilliard, Milton Babbitt — by almost unanimous consent — America's most important composer of twelve-tone music. Yet for over three decades Babbitt's music has been more talked about, often in heated controversy, than heard or understood.

Sextets, Babbitt's first solo string piece since the Composition for Viola and Piano of 1950, dates from 1966, and immediately follows such important works as Philomel, Relata I, and Post-Partitions. The title, a strange one for a duo, is a typical bit of Babbitt word play, and refers to the sixes that run through the work. Like all of Babbitt's mature music, Sextets is written in twelve-tone system, but to listen to it intelligently one must put aside common misconceptions of how twelve-tone music works-such as the idea that octaves are forbidden, or that no note can be repeated until the other eleven have been stated.

Written twenty years later, The Joy of More Sextets (again, punny Babbitt) represents, in comparison with its predecessor, the ever-increasing lucidity of Babbitt's late style. Fragmentation is no longer an issue, and dynamics change, not note by note, but in shaped phrases. Like Canonical Form of 1983, the piece is audibly built of trichords (groups of three pitches).

As Gregory Sandow once wrote, Babbitt and his music "are products of the 1950s, as much symptoms of the eruption of tumultuous subterranean forces into above-ground life as monster movies, rock-and-roll, the beat generation, and abstract expressionism." For all his celebrated objectivity and precise musical logic, Babbitt has written some of the most absorbing-even exhausting-music of any recent composer.

Performers: Rolf Schulte, violin; Alan Feinberg, piano

Rolf Schulte

Milton Babbitt: Sextets/The Joy of More Sextets

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   Liner Notes

Track Listing

The Joy of More Sextets
Milton Babbitt
Milton Babbitt