Biography Milton Babbitt

Composer Milton Babbitt's influence on contemporary music is inestimable. His innovative use of the human voice, his infusions of electronic tape sounds into live performances, his serial compositional techniques and pioneering work in synthesized sound, all broke new ground in the music world. His compositions, with their twelve-tone structures, complex mathematical tonal combinations, and synthetic sounds, offered up with Babbitt's cerebral explanations, evince serious purpose, energy, and wit. His influence has been achieved as much through his extensive writings on music as through his music itself. His relative lack of concern with audience appeal is perhaps itself one of the keys to his success, giving him the freedom to experiment. In an article titled "Who Cares If You Listen?" (1958), Babbitt describes the modern-day composer of "new" music as a highly advanced specialist, an ivory-tower figure comparable to a closeted research scientist, who's first responsibility is the advancement of his or her art, and in whom the general music-loving public, quite understandably and properly, has and can have little interest.

Born in Philadelphia in 1916, Babbitt studied composition with Marion Bauer and Philip James at New York University (B.A., 1935), and privately with Roger Sessions. When Sessions took a teaching position at Princeton University, Babbitt followed him there. He continued his studies--earning, in 1942, an M.F.A. in music--and himself joined the Princeton faculty in 1938. This began an enduring relationship with Princeton--including a brief stint as a teacher of mathematics during World War II--from which Babbitt finally retired as professor emeritus in 1984. While at Princeton, Babbitt served, from 1959 to 1984, as director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. He also taught composition at the Juilliard School of Music, beginning in 1973, and gave guest lectures at numerous institutions of higher learning in both the United States and abroad.

Babbitt was honored in 1982 with a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his "life's work as a distinguished and seminal American composer," and in 1986 he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which awarded him a Gold Medal in music in 1988. He has served on the editorial board of Perspectives of New Music and been president of the American branch of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM). In 1992 he was awarded a Ph.D. from Princeton for a paper he had written in 1946 concerning Arnold Schoenberg's compositional method. The university had deemed the work unworthy at the time of its writing. Babbitt pursues an interest in American popular music--jazz in particular--and remains active as a composer.

Babbitt has been the subject of many articles and books, including An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt, by Andrew Washburn Mead; Milton Babbitt: Words about Music, a compilation of Babbitt's lectures, edited by Stephen Dembski and Joseph N. Straus; and The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt, edited by Stephen Peles, Stephen Dembski, Andrew Mead, and Joseph N. Straus.

Discography

Three Compositions for Piano [1947]
Robert Taub, piano.
CRI SD-461 (1981)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Composition for Four Instruments [1948]
John Wummer, flute; Stanley Drucker, clarinet; Peter Marsh, violin; Donald McCall, cello.
CRI 138 (1961)

New England Conservatory Chamber Ensemble, John Heiss, conductor.
Golden Crest NEC-109 (1979)

Composition for Twelve Instruments [1948, rev. 1954]
Unknown ensemble, Ralph Shapey, conductor.
Son Nova Records 1 (1962)

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.
Library of Congress Concert 1969-12-12.
LWO 5880

Composition for Viola and Piano [1950]
A. Loft, viola; Bernhard Weiser, piano.
New Editions 4 (1951)

Walter Trampler, viola; Alvin Baumann, piano.
CRI 138 (1961)

John Graham, viola; Robert Black, piano
CRI SD 446 (1981)

The Widow's Lament in Springtime - soprano and piano [1950]
Judith Bettina, soprano; Alan Feinberg, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 1987-04-24.
RWB 4646-47

Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Martin Amlin, piano.
Centaur CRC 2510 (2001)

Du (song cycle) - soprano and piano [1951]
Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Robert Helps, piano.
Son Nova Records 1 (1962)

String Quartet No. 2 [1954]
The Composer's Quartet.
Nonesuch H-71280 (1973)

Duet - piano [1956]
Stephen Gerber, piano.
Opus One 67 (1982)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Semi-simple Variations - piano [1956]
Stephen Gerber, piano.
Opus One 67 (1982)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Partitions - piano [1957]
Robert Helps, piano.
RCA Victor LM / LSC-7042 (1966)
CRI SD-288 (1972)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Alan Feinberg, piano.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

All Set - jazz ensemble [1957]
Jazz Ensemble conducted by Gunther Schuller and George Russell.
Columbia WL 127 (1958)
Columbia C2L 31/ C2S 31 (1964)

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, Arthur Weisberg, conductor.
Nonesuch H - 71303 (1974)
Elektra/Nonesuch 79222-2 (198?)

Boston Musica Viva.
Library of Congress Concert 1985-05-04.
RWB 0368-69

Vision and Prayer - soprano and tape [1961]
Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, Arthur Weisberg, conductor.
Library of Congress Concert 1963-02-08.
LWO 3928

Bethany Beardslee, soprano.
CRI SD-288 (1972)

Bethany Beardslee, soprano.
CRI CD-521 (1988)

Mimmi Fulmer, soprano.
Centaur CRC 2510 (2001)

Composition for Synthesizer [1961]
Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center.
Columbia ML-5966 / MS-6566 (1964)

Ensembles for Synthesizer [1962-64]
Columbia MS 7051 (1967)
Finnadar CD-4 (1976)

Philomel - soprano and tape [1964]
Bethany Beardsley, soprano.
Acoustic Research 0654 083 (1971)
New World Records 307 (1980)
New World 80466 (1995)

Judith Bettina, soprano.
Library of Congress Concert 1987-04-24.
RWB 4646-47

Bethany Beardslee, soprano.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

Judith Bettina, soprano.
Neuma CD 450-74 (19??)

Relata I - orchestra [1965]
Juilliard Orchestra, Paul Zukovsky, conductor.
New World 80396 (1990)

Sextets - violin and piano [1966]
Paul Zukovsky, violin; Gilbert Kalish, piano.
Desto 6435-6437 (1975)

Rolfe Schulte, violin; Alan Feinberg, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 1987-04-24.
RWB 4646-47

Rolfe Schulte, violin; Alan Feinberg, piano.
New World NW 364-2 (1988)

Post-Partitions - piano [1966]
Robert Miller, piano.
New World Records 209 (1977)
New World 80466 (1995)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Correspondences - string orchestra and tape [1967]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine conductor.
Deutsche Grammophon 431 698 (1994)

Four Canons, after Birthday Canons for Carl Engel by Arnold Schoenberg - female chorus [1968]
UCSB Dorians, Michael Ingham conductor.
Audio Engineering Associates AEA-1094 (19??)

String Quartet No. 3 [1969-70]
Fine Arts Quartet.
Turnabout TV-S 34515 (1972)
Music & Arts CD 707 (1991)

Phonemena - soprano and piano [1969-70]
Lynne Webber, soprano; Jerry Kuderna, piano.
New World Records 209 (1977)
New World 80466 (1995)

Judith Bettina, soprano; Alan Feinberg, piano
Library of Congress Concert 1987-04-24.
RWB 4646-47

String Quartet No. 4 [1970]
Claremont Quartet.
Library of Congress Concert 1970-10-31.
LWO 6152 r5-6

Juilliard String Quartet.
Library of Congress Concert 1971-10-22
LWO 6645

Juilliard String Quartet.
Library of Congress Concert 1987-03-26.
RWB 4586-89

Juilliard String Quartet.
Library of Congress Concert 1988-04-29.
RWB 6223-24

Juilliard String Quartet.
CRI 587 (1990)

Occasional Variations - 4-track tape [1971]
Tzadik TZ 7088 (2003)

Tableaux - piano [1972]
M. Kriesberg, piano.
Spectrum SR-324 (19??)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Aria da capo - quintet [1973-74]
Group for Contemporary Music, Harvey Sollberger conductor.
Nonesuch H-71372 (1979)

Ciro Scotto, conductor.
Perspectives of New Music PNM 26 (19??)

Phonemena - soprano and tape [1975]
Lynne Webber, soprano.
New World Records 209 (1977)
New World 80466 (1995)

Reflections - piano and synthesized tape [1975]
Robert Miller, piano.
New World Records 209 (1977)
New World 80466 (1995)

Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Robert Taub, piano.
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center 1996-05-15.
RGA 4948

A Solo Requiem - soprano and two pianos [1976-77]
Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Cheryl Seltzer & Joel Sachs, pianos.
Nonesuch - 78006 (1981)

Victoria Villamil, soprano; Cheryl Seltzer & Joel Sachs, pianos.
Library of Congress Concert 1982-10-30.
RWA 4493-94

Minute Waltz or 3/4 ± 1/8 - piano [1977]
Alan Feinberg, piano.
Nonesuch N-79011 (1981)

Alan Feinberg, piano.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

Playing For Time - piano [1977]
Alan Feinberg, piano.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

My Ends Are My Beginnings - clarinet [1978]
Cygnus Ensemble, Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor.
Bridge 9135 (2003)

Charles Neidich, clarinet.
Library of Congress Concert 1986-02-22
RWB 2273-74

Paraphrases - chamber ensemble [1979]
Parnassus, Anthony Korf, conductor.
CRI SD 499 (1983)

An Elizabethan Sextet [1979]
Group for Contemporary Music. Harvey Solberger, conductor.
CRI CD-521 (1988)

Dual - violoncello and piano [1980]
Joel Krosnick, cello; Gilbert Kalish, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 1981-02-13.
RWA 417-418

Joel Krosnick, cello; Gilbert Kalish, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 1984-03-14
RWA 7267-68

The Head of the Bed - soprano and quartet [1982]
Judith Bettina, soprano; Parnassus, Anthony Korf, conductor
New World NW 346 (1987)

About Time - piano[1982]
Alan Feinberg, piano.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

String Quartet No. 5 [1982]
Sequoia String Quartet.
Library of Congress Concert 1983-03-11.
RWA 5187-88

Composers Quartet.
Music and Arts Programs of America CD 606 (19??)

Melismata - violin [1982]
Curtis Macomber, violin.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Canonical Form - piano [1983]
Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Robert Taub, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 2000-05-19
RGA 7246

Groupwise - chamber ensemble [1983]
Group for Contemporary Music, Daniel Shulman, conductor.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

It Takes Twelve to Tango - piano [1984]
Alan Feinberg, piano.
CRI CD 521 (1988)

Composition for Guitar ("Sheer Pluck") [1984]
David Starobin, guitar.
Bridge BDG-2006 (1985)

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [1985]
Alan Fienberg, piano; American Composer's Orchestra, Charles Wuorinen, conductor.
New World NW 346 (1987)

Lagniappe - piano [1985]
Robert Taub, piano.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 5160 (1986)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 905160 (1986)

Joy of More Sextets - violin and piano [1986-87]
Rolf Schulte, violin; Alan Feinberg, piano
Library of Congress Concert 1987-04-24
RWB 4646-47

Rolf Schulte, violin; Alan Feinberg, piano
New World NW 364-2 (1988)

Stanley Drucker, violin; Christopher Oldfather, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 1992-03-27.
RGA 3386-89

Joel Smirnoff, violin; Christofer Oldfather, piano.
Library of Congress Concert 2003-10-22.
RGB 3094

Whirled Series - alto saxophone and piano [1987]
Marshall Taylor, alto saxophone; Charles Abramovic, piano.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Homily - snare drum [1987]
Peter Jarvis, snare drum.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Beaten Paths - marimba [1988]
Thomas Kolor, marimba.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Play It Again, Sam - viola [1989]
Lois Martin, viola.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Consortini - chamber ensemble [1989]
Griffin Music Ensemble, Stephen Mosko, conductor.
GM GM2032CD (1992)

Soli e duettini - for 2 guitars, guitar and flute, or violin and viola [1989-90]

David Starobin, guitar.
Bridge 9042, (1993)

Susan Palma, flute; David Starobin, guitar
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Cygnus Ensemble, Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor.
Bridge 9135 (2003)

Four Cavalier Settings - tenor and gui or guitar [1991]
Neil Farrell, tenor; William Anderson, guitar.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

None but the Lonely Flute - flute [1991]
Rachel Rudich, flute.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Dorothy Stone, flute
New World 80456 (1994)

Septet But Equal - chamber ensemble [1992]
Composer's Ensemble, Paul Zukovsky, conductor.
CP2 - 111 (2003)

Quatrains - soprano and two clarinets [1993]
Cygnus Ensemble, Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor.
Bridge 9135 (2003)

Around the Horn - horn [1993]
William Purvis, horn.
Koch International 3-7335-2 (1996)

Accompanied Recitative - soprano saxophone and piano [1994]
John Sampen, saxophone; Marilyn Shrude, piano
Albany TROY 442 (2001)

Manifold Music - organ [1995]
Cygnus Ensemble, Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor.
Bridge 9135 (2003)

Piano Quartet - piano and string trio [1995]
Robert Taub, piano; Rolf Schulte, violin; Toby Appel, viola; Fred Sherry, cello.
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center 1996-05-15.
RGA 4949

Quintet for Clarinet and Strings [1996]
Juilliard String Quartet; Charles Neidich, clarinet.
Library of Congress Concert 2003-10-24.
RGB 3091

Three Cultivated Choruses - chorus [??]
New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor.
Capstone CPS-8674 (2000)

Swan Song No. 1 - [??]
Cygnus Ensemble, Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor.
Bridge 9135 (2003)


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This discography was assembled using available catalog records, internet resources, discographies, and other works. Especially included are the performers' Library of Congress concert appearances, the recordings of which reside in the Library of Congress's Recorded Sound collections. Excluded are the numerous promotional and special market reissues of excerpts of complete recordings.

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Subjects Babbitt, Milton
Biographies
Biography
Songs and Music
Title
Milton Babbitt
Subject Headings
-  Babbitt, Milton -- 1916- -- -- composer
-  Biographies
-  Songs and Music
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biography
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