American composer, theorist and teacher Milton Babbitt was born in Philadelphia on 10 May 1916. After briefly studying mathematics (to which he returned during World War II for some secret research in Washington), he switched to music at New York University, where he became interested in the music of the Second Viennese School. Later he extended the dodecaphonic system to select duration, dynamics, registration and timbre, as well as pitch, and this became the basis of the 'total serialism' of the 1950s.
After graduating, he studied composition with Roger Sessions, and later became interested in electronic music and the extreme rhythmic precision which could be generated using synthesisers. He taught at Princeton University and at Juillliard, and was also interested in jazz and American popular music.
He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on 29 January 2011, aged 94, having become one of the most celebrated and influential of twentieth century composers.
A selection of M&V articles about Milton Babbitt
CD Spotlight. Rich Timbres - Music by Robert Baksa, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'The performances express Baksa's gentle optimism beautifully.'
Profile. Finding the Right Voice - Maria Nockin talks to American composer Daniel Catán
CD Spotlight. Rhythmic Interplay - Music by Babbitt and Feldman, heard by Patric Standford. '... fresh and striking ...'
CD Spotlight. Perceptive Musicianship - Oboe concertos played by Andrea Gullickson [listen], enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... highly recommended ...'
Ensemble. Tanglewood and Beyond - The sounds of summer in the Berkshires, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
New, adventurous and progressive - A profile of the Society for Chromatic Art, by Amanda von Goetz
Provocations - Alistair Hinton and Chad Wozniak discuss Patric Standford's recent 'Provocative Thoughts'
Record box - American spiritual. Marilyn Nonken plays new piano works written for her, investigated by Keith Bramich