Babbitt, Milton (Byron)
- Elaine Barkin
- , revised by Martin Brody
(b Philadelphia, PA, May 10, 1916; d Princeton, Jan 29, 2011). American composer and theorist. He has contributed extensively to the understanding and extension of 12-note compositional theory and practice and has been one of the most influential composers and teachers in the USA since World War II.
Brought up in Jackson, Mississippi, he started playing the violin at the age of four and several years later also studied clarinet and saxophone. He graduated from high school in 1931, having already demonstrated considerable skills in jazz ensemble performance and the composition of popular songs. His father’s professional involvement with mathematics (as an actuary) was influential in shaping Babbitt’s intellectual environment. In 1931 Babbitt entered the University of Pennsylvania with the intention of becoming a mathematician, but he soon transferred to New York University, concentrating on music under Marion Bauer and Philip James. He received the BA in music in 1935. As a student and during the ensuing years, Babbitt immersed himself in the intellectual milieu of New York, encountering influential philosophers such as Sidney Hook and James Wheelright, developing a life-long engagement with analytical philosophy, and reading widely in rapidly emerging and sometimes short-lived journals such as ...