Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt

An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt

Andrew Mead
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 334
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt
    Book Description:

    In this celebration of Milton Babbitt's art, Andrew Mead explores the development of a central figure in contemporary American music. As a teacher and writer, Babbitt has influenced two generations of students, including such notable musicians as Stephen Sondheim and Donald Martino. He has helped establish the study of music theory as a serious academic pursuit, and his articles on Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and the twelve-tone system constitute a seminal body of research. But Babbitt is first and last a composer, whose works are, in Mead's words, "truly music to be heard." With Mead as a guide, we discover the strong emotional and expressive charge of Babbitt's music that is inextricably entwined with its structure.

    Babbitt is a twelve-tone composer, unabashedly so, and it is precisely his profound understanding of Arnold Schoenberg's epochal insight that gives Babbitt's music its special quality. By examining the underlying principles of twelve-tone composition, Mead allows us to appreciate Babbitt's music on its own terms, as a richly varied yet unified body of work. In achieving this purpose, he provides an excellent introduction to twelve-tone music in general. Without relying on professional jargon, he lucidly and succinctly explains Babbitt's complexities. A catalog of compositions, a discography, and a bibliography complete a book that will interest performers, music theorists, and music historians, as well as other readers who are enthusiastic or curious about contemporary musical works.

    Originally published in 1994.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6333-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-4)

    MILTON BABBITT has been a central figure in contemporary American music for most of the past forty years. As a teacher and a writer he has influenced two generations of students, including such notable musicians as Stephen Sondheim and Donald Martino. His years at Princeton University helped establish the study of composition and music theory as serious academic pursuits, and his articles on Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and the twelve-tone system form the foundation of an extensive body of research by a wide variety of scholars. But Milton Babbitt is first and last a composer, and all his words about music have...

    (pp. 5-53)

    IMMERSION in the music of Milton Babbitt leaves one with an impression of overwhelming variety. From the compact intensity ofPost-Partitionsto the broad lyricism ofPhilomelorThe Joy of More Sextets, from the intimacies ofThe Widowʹs Lament in Springtimeto the vast canvases ofRelataor the Piano Concerto, we are constantly invited to explore new realms of musical expression, to try out new ways to listen. Nor does this variety partake merely of the intellectual or the purely experimental. There can be an enormous visceral excitement in a live performance ofReflections, while the text setting...

    (pp. 54-123)

    MILTON BABBITTʹS first published compositions reveal the degree to which he had assimilated and expanded upon Arnold Schoenberg’s and Anton Webernʹs developments of twelve-tone compositional thought. TheThree Compositions for Pianoand theComposition for Four Instrumentsare fully realized works, the latter foreshadowing many of Babbittʹs later techniques. These two are not his first essays in composition, however, and his list of works contains several pieces withdrawn or unfinished from this time and earlier. Nevertheless, it is extraordinary how fully Babbitt had realized the potential of twelve-tone composition at the very beginning of his artistic journey. These works obviously...

    (pp. 124-203)

    THE TEN YEARS following the completion ofAll Setsaw an enormous expansion of Babbitt’s compositional world. These years are marked by significant developments in all the areas of his music, from the underlying structures of both pitch and rhythm to the very way in which the sounding surface is produced. Most noticeable about the latter is the appearance during this period of Babbittʹs first works for synthesizer, both alone and in combination with voice or instruments. These included theComposition for Synthesizer, Ensemblesfor synthesizer, and one of the first works to combine live and electronic music in a...

  8. 4 THE GRAND SYNTHESIS (1981–)
    (pp. 204-263)

    IN 1981 Milton Babbitt completedArs Combinatoria, his first purely orchestral work sinceRelata IIof 1968, and with it ushered in a new compositional period during which he has synthesized the practices and predilections of all his earlier work. Babbittʹs production for the past decade has been marked by an increase in both the size and number of new pieces, not to mention the richness of their contents. In addition toArs Combinatoria, he has written a large-scale piano concerto,Transfigured Notesfor string orchestra, and several extended chamber works and solo piano pieces, as well as a wealth...

    (pp. 264-266)

    THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS have given us a glimpse of Milton Babbittʹs development as a composer over a period of more than four decades. It is hardly a complete picture, not merely because of its brevity but because Babbitt is still pursuing the implications of his chosen compositional constraints. As I write this, he has just completed a new composition for three clarinets, three strings, and piano, essentially the same ensemble used by Schoenberg in hisSuiteop. 29. The work promises to be enormous by Babbittʹs standards, running to about twenty minutes, and in it he has extended his practice...

    (pp. 267-270)
    (pp. 271-294)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 295-304)
    (pp. 305-314)
    (pp. 315-318)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 319-321)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 322-322)