Remembering the Composer: Milton Babbitt

Originally aired November 28, 1985 on WNYC with host Tim Page

Monday, January 31, 2011

As opinions from across the spectrum of musically-minded come in about the passing of Milton Babbitt's passing, we thought we'd launch Q2's audio coverage with a 1985 Meet the Composer interview of Milton Babbitt with longtime WNYC host Tim Page. Listen Friday evening at 8 p.m for Q2 host Nadia Sirota's deep audio rich dive into the life and music of Milton Babbitt, with insights from many of Babbitt's closest colleagues, collaborators and students.

At the outset of this 1985 interview, host Tim Page expresses his admiration for Babbitt's music, but focuses soon on unpacking the reasons behind Babbitt's status as one of the "most misunderstood of today's composers." In doing so, Page gives an opportunity for the traditionally circumspect composer to publicly introduce his own music, advise the day's younger crop of composers and express his admiration for the charms of popular music.

Pieces heard include All Set conducted by Arthur Weisberg, the String Quartet No. 2 with the Composers Quartet and Reflections for piano and synthesized tape with pianist Robert Miller.

Check back throughout the week, as we honor this giant of contemporary music by unveiling a series of exclusive articles, shows and interviews:

  • Monday at 4 p.m., EST: Meet the Composer from 1985 with WNYC host Tim Page
  • Tuesday at 4 p.m., EST: Composers Forum from 1973 with Martin Bookspan
  • Wednesday at 4 p.m., EST: New, Old, and Unexpected from 1986 with host Tim Page
  • Friday at 8 p.m., EST: Milton Babbitt at 94 with Q2 host Nadia Sirota
  • Sunday at 2 p.m., EST: Cued Up on Q2: Milton Babbitt


More in:

Comments [3]

Great video about Milton Babbitt from

Feb. 01 2011 04:22 PM

Babbitt wasn't trying to be a symbol for a movement, but simply a devout explorer of his own personal aesthetic and experimentalist in the theories about musical meaning that he found most convincing. He encouraged other composers to do the same, and his students - no matter how aggressively they used his theories to promote division in compositional circles - were taught to develop their own personal vision. If there was anything, he hated it was factionalization. Let's not distort his legacy by promoting the anger and name-calling he himself despised.

Jan. 31 2011 10:43 PM
Roger Hofmann from New York City

During the 50's and 60's "high modernists" like Babbitt dominated the musical establishment even though they were disdained in the concert hall. Students of classical music were taught that this was the indeed the music of the future. The idea of inevitable progress , in other realms of experience, were casualties of 2 world wars. But somehow such modernists as Babbitt yielded great cultural influence. For awhile I felt amiss for simply despising the high modernist agressive musical intellectualism (at the expense of sensuous beauty in music) and the homophobia they occasionally leveled at "romantics" (which had actually begun with their forebear, Ives). I was relieved when the whole high modernist movement more or less collapsed (having failed to win over the classical music public at large). For many classical music lovers, Babbitt was a kind of musical terrorist who had expired by 1980.

Jan. 31 2011 08:55 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Q2 Music

Q2 Music is WQXR’s multiplatform home for musical discovery and dynamic new classical music from trailblazing composers, ensembles and leading New York new-music venues. Q2 Music's 24/7 stream lives online at and is accessible via the free WQXR app.


Follow Q2 Music