A cephalomusical groaner (For Tani?)

Discussion in 'Culture' started by F'n'M, Jul 2, 2003.

  1. F'n'M

    F'n'M Larval Mass Registered

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    Since our resident were-squid has revealed some degree of obscure twentieth-century music fandom (see "Turanga Leela" in the "octosimpsons" thread), I hereby dedicate this one to Tani.

    Surely, you all know Milton Babbitt, one of the first American composers to adopt Schoenberg's 12-tone serial (AKA dodecaphonic) technique in the 1940's...no? Well, if you haven't heard of him or his music, I strongly urge you to walk, not run, to your favorite record store, and pick up an album or two: the Beatles, Shostakovich, Neil Diamond...anything but Babbitt. You wouldn't enjoy listening to his music, and your record store probably wouldn't carry it either. It suffices to say that in the 1950's, he wrote an article in High Fidelity magazine, entitled "Who Cares If You Listen?" -- the title was not his own idea, but it gets a lot of his compositional philosophy across. He's still kicking at 80-something, so of course you are not yet obliged to "appreciate" his music, fortunately. So now you know about Milton Babbitt.

    What's not so well known about Babbitt is that he was a ceph enthusiast...in fact, he was the first of many serialist composers who took a fancy to these creatures. It was a common joke that they wished to specially breed an octopus with four extra arms, creating a "dodecaphonic dodecapod" that was especially suited for playing their music, but of course this is absurd. After all, some of Babbitt's music for piano requires at least 14 arms to play, so it would be simpler to just train two regular octopods to play a duet. In truth, the affinity of Babbitt and his contemporaries for all things tentacled seemed to be something of a fad. Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor, raised a paper nautilus named Jules, and in the famed concrete bunkers of his IRCAM studios, had a room given over to a giant tank containing a Mesonycoteuthis named Olivier (note: first one to spot the even-more-obscure-than-Futurama reference there gets my sympathy, for they must be spending too much time listening to modern music (so saith the aspiring composer...)). Karlheinz Stockhausen preferred octopodes (an acceptable plural, according to both my ancient Funk & Wagnalls and my Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary) -- his personal favorite was a venomous little beast he called the "Blue-Ring of the Nibelungs". Fellow American George Perle had a sweet tooth for teuthids, metaphorically speaking, and his collection was once loaned to the New York Museum of Natural History, for an exhibit entitled "The Devilfish in Music". And what, you may wonder, was Babbitt's preference? Cuttlefish.

    Milton really loved his cuttlefish. He had many tanks, each containing twelve cuttles, named (perhaps uncreatively) for the notes of the chromatic scale, each tank representing a different octave. Musicological scholars have in fact hypothesized that the inspiration for many of the tone-rows underlying his major works came from the patterns of flashing colors that rippled through the tanks, and some have even gone so far as to suggest certain behavioral motives, pertaining to such events as "Feeding time," and "Stranger approaching the tank," which recur in many different pieces. Extramusically, Babbitt was also fascinated by their supposed intelligence, and attempted to train his cuttles to do tricks -- possibly with the intention of being able to quit his "day job" and join a cephalocircus. However, years of such attempts proved to be generally fruitless, as he was unable to even get them to flash out a C-Major scale on cue. This was especially frustrating for him, as his friend George Perle was able to coax some truly amazing feats out of his "devilfish", and Perle wasn't afraid to rub it in. One day, Perle came to Babbitt's house to talk about their latest compositions, and the topic soon drifted to their cephs. Babbitt was of course proud to show off his tanks of cuttles, and explained his latest attempt at training them. He wished to get each individual ceph to recognize its name by pitch, and devised a reward system involving tuning forks and extra shrimp. Milton demonstrated by picking up the A-440 tuning fork, walking over to the fifth tank, and whacking the fork on the side of the glass. Nothing of interest happened, and Milton gave the fork a few more whacks, still to no avail. In dismay, he turned to his friend and said, "You see how useless this is? Is there anything I'm doing wrong?" to which Perle replied:

    "Silly Babbitt, tricks are for squids!"

    -- F'n'M

    "Thank you, I'll be here till Thursday..."
     
  2. WhiteKiboko

    WhiteKiboko Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    quite wise o one who can quote a stuffed tiger :roll: ...... tell me, that avatar you have, it doesnt come from a band that uses cephalopods as phallic imagery does it?
     
  3. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    F'n'M,

    Babbitt could have saved himself some time (if not trouble) by obtaining a scylla. Ill-tempered, yes, but fully amphibious and posessed of twelve "heads" (clubs) on twelve "necks" (tentacles).

    WK, I believe F'n'M's avatar is derived from an illuminated manuscript, produced by the Order of Spiffs.

    :roll:

    Clem
     
  4. WhiteKiboko

    WhiteKiboko Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    i think youre right....i knew i had seen it somewhere before....
     
  5. lithographette

    lithographette O. vulgaris Registered

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    And I thought I was learning something :grad:
    Boy am I gullible!

    It was beautifully composed, despite the last minute swtcheroo!
     
  6. F'n'M

    F'n'M Larval Mass Registered

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    My avatar is indeed culled from a Calvinist treatise, in the hand of St. Bill-of-the-Watter. This was the only Google Images hit for "calvin-and-hobbes squid" in the whole intarweb, and the page described it as a "space squid". I was hoping to find a great octo picture which appeared in the very first book collection, as one of Calvin's earliest animal fantasies, but was unable to find that, or any other c&h cephs, online.

    As for the content...I'm glad I kept some people going. The names are all genuine serialist composers, all of whom are still alive, but that ceph jazz was of course a grand setup. And I stand by my recommendation not to listen to Babbitt's music.

    -- F'n'M
     
  7. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    AAAAARRRRRGGGHHH! You had me going there for a minute too, F'n'M. Of course I feel honored to have an entire thread dedicated to me -- though at my age, it is definitely a Silver Thread Among The Gold.

    BTW, you were right about Boulez's Ceph's name, but you misspelled its species: That would be Messiaenychoteuthis, of course. Anyway, there's no shame to being familiar with obscure composers. I, for example, am the only person in the Western Hemisphere who actually likes Bruckner's symphonies. Of course, I also love Mahler, and there appears to be some overlap in fandom of both composers (just as Roy Orbison fans usually like Gene Pitney too, and vice versa).

    That "Who Cares If You Listen?" article doesn't sound so farfetched at all. I remember reading about a piece "composed" by John Cage entitled 4:33, in which the composer walked onstage, sat down at the piano, and stayed there for 4 minutes 33 seconds looking at his watch and not doing anything. Later a critic wrote that he was very impressed by 4:33, and hoped that in the future Cage would write even longer pieces of this nature.

    Babbitt wasn't the only 20th-century composer with pet Sepioidae, you know. Philip Glass kept a few of them as well. Of course, Glass referred to them as Koyanisqaatlefish.

    ANNOYINGLY POMPOUS NOTE TO CLEM: My dear sir, Scylla had six heads, not twelve. In fact, even the Hydra had only nine (eight mortal, one immortal). Of course, it is occasionally acceptable to take liberties with this data -- witness Stephen Hillenburg's portrayal of Squidward Tentacles as a six-limbed Cephalopod. However, on this message board, such inaccuracy -- much like ending sentences with prepositions -- is something up with which we shall not put.

    PS: Wouldn't Cuttles be much more effective at a Scriabin concert?

    Auf wiedersehn,
    Tanni-häuser
     
  8. WhiteKiboko

    WhiteKiboko Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    what are you talking about? :)
     
  9. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    I don't know what reason I should tell you for.

    :bugout:
     
  10. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    Her legs-and there are twelve-
    are like great tentacles,
    unjointed, and upon her serpent necks
    are borne six heads like nightmares of ferocity


    So, if we are to be truly accurate, Scylla had 72 heads.

    :heee:

    Clem
     
  11. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Ahem.... according to translations I've seen:

    • "And therein dwelleth Scylla, yelping terribly. Her voice indeed is no greater than the voice of a new-born whelp, but a dreadful monster is she, nor would any look on her gladly, not if it were a god that met her. Verily she hath twelve feet all dangling down; and six necks exceeding long, and on each a hideous head [emphasis mine], and therein three rows of teeth set thick and close, full of black death."
    Yo.... "on each." Deal with it.

    :grad: :heart: :cthulhu: :cthulhu: :cthulhu: :cthulhu: :cthulhu: :cthulhu:
     

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