Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) was born on September 4, 1892 in Aix-en-Provence, where his cultured and close-knit Jewish family had been settled for at least eight centuries. A sensitive child, Milhaud spent long hours walking, communing with the dramatic landscape Cézanne made famous in his paintings. Milhaud would later describe a recurring semi-mystical sensation he had in the countryside of Provence by night, the earth and sky sending overlapping rays and beams of energy, "a thousand simultaneous musics rushing towards me from all directions." He regarded this experience as the source of the polytonality which would later saturate his music with vibrant, overlapping bands of sound.
A member of Les Six, Milhaud's music was influenced by rhythms of American jazz and popular Brazilian music: ragtime, maxixe, samba, and tango. He was a great proponent of polytonality and became one of the most prolific composers (if not the most prolific) of the century: Over 400 works (14 concertos, 18 string quartets, 8 operas, 10 ballets, 7 cantatas, 14 sonatas, 8 symphonies, and other miscellaneous works.
Milhaud detested Wagner's music. When a young man wrote to him about Wagner's theories that all art "springs from suffering, unhappiness, and frustration," Milhaud wrote: "I am glad you decided to write me about your problem [with Wagner's theories]; here is my point of view, if you want it. I had a marvelously happy childhood. My wife is my companion, my collaborator; we are the best of friends, and this gives me great happiness. My son is a painter who works incessantly, and he is sweet and loving to his parents. Thus I can say that I've had a happy life, and if I compose, it's because I am in love with music and I wouldn't know how to do anything else . . . Your Wagner quote proves to me once again that he was an idiot."