Performing with a pre-recorded electronic track is an increasingly popular demand on the modern flutist. Such works by Steve Reich (Vermont Counterpoint), Eve Beglarian (I will not be sad in this world), and JacobTV (Lipstick, The Garden of Love), just to name a few, have made a significant mark on the contemporary flute repertoire. The content of these pre-recorded tracks ranges from multi-tracked instruments to the composer’s own voice to digitally manipulated sound bytes and synthesized sounds. The live performer must learn to interact with these unwavering electronic counterparts.
Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) was a pioneer of the synthesizer and an important figure in American serial music. Electronic serial composers experienced significant backlash for removing the human element of performance in favor of complete compositional control. Babbitt’s composition, Philomel (1964), was one of the first compositions to combine live performance with a tape part created by a synthesizer, thus helping to create a new performance medium. This genre has since expanded and found its own place in the modern repertoire. The following is a discussion of the collaboration that produced Milton Babbitt’s seminal 20th century composition, Philomel.