Saxophone Without Mouthpiece: Toward an Understanding of Technique, practice, utility, artistic possibility, and acoustical phenomenon
The Saxophone Works of Milton Babbitt – A Comparative Analysis of Compositional Techniques, Form, and Performance Practice, Aesthetic, and Reception.
ABSTRACT: Milton Babbitt called the saxophone the “instrument of the future.” At the same time that Babbitt was creating new ways of thinking about serial music, the saxophone led the way in the progression and performance of new music and new compositional techniques. Analysis of Babbitt’s works for saxophone demonstrates this development. Although Babbitt was a leader in the advancement of new musical thought, his writing is conservative with regard to extended techniques of the saxophone. Even though much scholarship exists on Babbitt’s music, philosophies, and theories, a lack of research is apparent specifically on his works for saxophone.
The music of Milton Babbitt is categorized into three compositional style periods; and throughout these periods his serialism evolved. He composed at least one saxophone work in each of these periods. In the first work, All Set, Babbitt employs the technique of trichords and trichordal arrays which underpins the jazz style of the piece. In his only work for saxophone and tape, Images, Babbitt takes advantage of the all-trichord row. Whirled Series is a whirlwind of overlapping aggregates constituted by deformed arrays. His final and shortest piece in this genre, Accompanied Recitative, hints at tonality and alludes to all serial techniques that Babbitt influenced or created.
Focus is also spent on the conservative aspects of Babbitt’s writing. Why does Babbitt disregard the use of the altissimo range? Could this somehow be linked to his own performing experiences with the saxophone? Why and how does he integrate the few instances of extended techniques?
Although Babbitt used disparate compositional techniques to compose his works for saxophone, unity and cohesiveness exist among them. They represent this “instrument of the future” as an instrument worthy of academic prowess, virtuosity, musicality, and success. Babbitt’s music and specifically his saxophone works deserve their place in music history. This music is important to the tolerance of contemporary music, and there is arguably no better instrument than the saxophone to pave the road of this progressive music.
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