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..."