Babbitt, Milton

Babbitt, Milton, 1916–2011, American composer, b. Philadelphia. Babbitt turned to music after studying mathematics. He studied composition with Roger Sessions at Princeton, and taught there from 1938 (emeritus from 1984). He was also on the faculty of Juilliard and several other music schools, and was associated with the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center (now the Columbia Univ. Computer Music Center), which he helped to form in 1959.

In his exceedingly complex works, Babbitt attempted to apply twelve-tone principles to all the elements of composition: dynamics, timbre, duration, registration, and rhythm, as well as melody and harmony. He called this “total serialization” (see serial music). Babbitt composed many works for chamber ensembles and instrumental and vocal soloists. His works include Three Compositions for Piano (1947), three string quartets (1942, 1954, 1969–70), Composition for Synthesizer (1961), Ensembles for Synthesizer (1964), Philomel (1964) for soprano, taped soprano, and synthesizer, A Solo Requiem for soprano and piano, and Dual (1980) for cello and piano. In 1982 he received a special Pulitzer citation for his body of work.

See his Words about Music (1987) and The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt (2003); A. W. Mead, An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt (1994).

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