Milhaud was born into a Provençal Jewish family and trained at the Paris Conservatory with Paul Dukas and Vincent d'Indy. He was associated with the young composers known as Les Six by critic Henri Collet. In 1940, he was appointed as a professor at Mills College in Oakland, California. He taught at the Paris Conservatory after 1947. He had debilitating arthritis in his later years, but he managed to write and conduct. Milhaud's music is known for its use of bitonality and polychords beginning about 1913. He was the first to explore polytonality (though not the first to use it) and improve it reliably. Saudades do Brasil (1921), a collection of dance suites, illustrates his usage of polytonality. In later years, his style became more streamlined, but the harmonic foundation stayed still polytonal. His polytonality has the appearance of several good planes moving at the same time. His music has a lyrical beauty, despite its dissonance. Milhaud was a prolific composer who produced over 400 compositions, including radio and film scores, a setting of the Jewish Sabbath Morning Service (1947), symphonies (eight for large orchestra, five for small orchestra), choral works, and the Scaramouche two-piano suite (1936; later arranged for saxophone or clarinet and orchestra). A suite for violin, clarinet, and piano (1936) and 18 string quartets (1912–50) are among his chamber works. Claudel, Christina Rossetti, and Stéphane Mallarmé are among the poets whose poetry he has put to music. My Happy Life, an autobiography, was written by him (1995, trans. by Donald Evans).
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