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Twelve-tone music gets sexy

Posted by Christopher Shea  March 17, 2009 11:42 AM

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The ultra-serious modern composer Milton Babbitt once wrote an article for High Fidelity with the title "Who Cares if You Listen?" -- seeming to sum up the attitude of certain strand of 20th-century "classical" composers. Babbitt, as it happens, didn't choose the title and he always said it did violence to his meaning. But it's also fair to say that Babbitt didn't consider getting audience members to tap their feet to be an artist's highest calling.

The Minneapolis-based jazz trio The Bad Plus recorded a piece by Babbitt, "Semi-Simple Variations," for their new album "For All I Care." (The Bad Plus are known from drawing inspiration from all sorts of non-jazz sources, to put it mildly: songs by Nirvana, Yes, and Heart also appear on "For All I Care.") For a low-budget video filmed in a spare, loft-y looking space, they recruited female members of the Mark Morris Dance Troupe to do more than just tap their feet: in short red, blue, and black dresses and high-heel shoes, the dancers really bring the moves. The result is a revelation, especially if you think modern concert music is all brain and no soul. "We're reasonably certain," the members of The Bad Plus modestly assert on their blog, "that celebrated twelve-tone composer Milton Babbitt's music has never accompanied beautiful dancing girls before."

The Bad Plus perform Babbitt, with some help

Hi-low cultural bonus: The Bad Plus's version of Iron Man is viewable here.

Via The Rest is Noise

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