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date: 28 October 2020

Milhaud, Darius locked

  • Jeremy Drake


(b Marseilles, Sept 4, 1892; d Geneva, June 22, 1974). French composer. He was associated with the avant garde of the 1920s, whose abundant production reflects all musical genres. A pioneer in the use of percussion, polytonality, jazz and aleatory techniques, his music allies lyricism with often complex harmonies. Though his sources of inspiration were many and varied, his music has compelling stylistic unity.

Though born in Marseilles, Milhaud grew up in the nearby town of Aix-en-Provence. His father was a well-to-do almond dealer who lived and worked at the Bras d’Or, a former inn where the Milhaud family had been established since 1806. From his earliest years Milhaud was exposed to the songs of the amandières, the women who sorted the almonds on the ground floor of the house while singing Provençal airs and comic songs of the café-concerts. Milhaud admitted in his autobiography that he was a ‘rather neurotic’ child, and even as an adult easily prone to anxiety, yet noise must have been a constant feature of life at the Bras d’Or. Half awake in the morning, or in bed at night, he would hear the clamour of the men and women at work, and the ‘soft sound of fruit falling into the baskets and the monotonous and soothing drone of the machines’. It was at night too, before falling asleep, that he would hear a mysterious music he was quite unable to imagine written down, music he later realized was a premonition of polytonality....

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Neue Zeitschrift für Musik
Die Musikforschung
Journal of the Royal Musical Association