Compulsive  Loves. 2011. 9′

p15 - MedeeaFor Saxophone and Piano
Commissioned by Open Space.
Mary Joy Patchett, saxophone; John McDonald, piano
Recorded at Tufts University. Joel Gordon, engineer 


Open Space asked me to compose a work dedicated to the memory of Milton Babbitt for a special commemorative issue featuring both music and articles. I was honored to be one of the composers chosen and took the opportunity to familiarize myself with a piece of Milton’s that I did not know: Whirled Series. My own work takes some of the harmonies and melodies of Whirled Series and casts them in an elegy to Milton.

I never studied with Milton Babbitt, but I had opportunities to meet him and I am close with some of the last students he taught. My homage to Milton casts some of the material from Whirled Series in various different lights, perhaps reflecting on the modern trends into which some of Milton’s students have diverged. In this way, the work is a pastiche that swirls around one of Milton Babbitt’s own works.

“Comparison does not imply irony or belittling. We are in a universe in which the forms densely pack the allotted space, constantly exchanging qualities and dimensions, and the flux of time is filled with a proliferation of stories and cycles of stories. Terrestrial forms and stories echo celestial forms and stories, but each entwines the other by turns in a double spiral. The contiguity between gods and human beings– related to the gods and the object of their compulsive loves — is one of the dominant themes of the Metamorphoses, but this is no more than a particular instance of the contiguity between all the figures and forms of existing things, anthropomorphic or otherwise.”

–Italo Calvino. Ovid and Universal Contiguity. Preface to an edition of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, 1979


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