Milton Babbitt

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Overview

Many consider Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Milton Babbitt to be the preeminent figure in post-World War II American music. Beyond the extraordinary power of his music, he is also, as he says, “somewhat known as a talker.” In fact, he is renowned as an energetic teacher and inspired lecturer.
    In 1983 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Babbitt presented a concise summary of his most essential musical insights in a series of lectures and seminars. These are gathered here, presenting for the first time in book form a comprehensive overview of the subjects that have formed the core of his teaching for the past forty years.
    Babbitt’s central concern in these lectures is the twelve-tone tradition with which he is so closely identified. His discussion of this tradition ranges from close consideration of specific compositional problems to frank evaluation of his own position in that tradition. In his characteristically penetrating way, Babbitt discusses the most controversial issues in twentieth-century music, from serialism and atonality to the responsibility of the listener and the place of music in the university.
    Until now, few have had direct exposure to Babbitt’s ideas. In Madison, he spoke to a variety of audiences and, because of the pedagogical context, his presentation was direct and explanatory. This volume preserves the dazzling constructions and spontaneous excitement of his spoken language.
    At the time of publication, Milton Babbitt was William Shubael Conant Professor of Music Emeritus at Princeton University. He has been showered with awards during his long and distinguished career, including the Pulitzer Prize (1982) and a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (1986). He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299107949
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1987
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Dembski is professor of composition and Composition Area Chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Joseph N. Straus is distinguished professor of music at City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Chapter 1 The Twelve-Tone Tradition 3
The tradition from which Babbitt's music derives
Early interest in Schoenberg and the twelve-tone idea
Some common misapprehensions
Contextuality and Schoenberg's search for a new communality
A question of terminology: set, series, or row
Schoenberg's difficulty in completing Jakobsleiter
Collection and ordering in tonal and twelve-tone music
Schoenberg and Webern
Structural function of the series in Composition for Four Instruments and Second Quartet
Some reminiscences
Chapter 2 Contextual Counterpoint 33
Inversion and index number in Webern, Piano Variations, Opus 27 (second movement)
Dallapiccola's gloss on Webern
Harmony and counterpoint in Webern, Symphony, Opus 21
Some properties of combinatorial hexachords
A survey of the six all-combinatorial hexachords
How to construct a Schoenbergian hexachord
Some comments on retrograde and retrograde-inversion
Chapter 3 Large-Scale Harmonic Organization 63
Tracing a contextual path through the first movement of Schoenberg's Fourth Quartet
Set structure and set associations in Schoenberg, Opus 33a
Long-range preparation and reinforcement in Moses and Aaron
Chapter 4 Questions of Partitioning 85
The relationships between trichords and hexachords
Various partionings of the aggregate
Pitch-class operations applied to total sets
About proving the hexachordal theorem
All-trichordal and all-interval set
Stravinsky's verticals
Some aspects of All Set
Inferring structural relations from the musical surface
Chapter 5 Professional Theorists and Their Influence 121
Professional theorists
The Schenker synthesis and a Bach chorale
Erpf and the emergence of the contextual point of view
Schenker's analysis of a Bach chorale and some additional parallelisms
Diminution technique
A contextual analysis of the Prelude to Tristan
Eccentric but influential theorists
Erpf's Kette, Klirrtone, etc.
Contextual continuity techniques in Hindemith's Third String Quartet and Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, Opus 16 and Klavierstucke, Opus 23 No. 3
Chapter 6 The Unlikely Survival of Serious Music 163
The intellectual and social reorientation of music in this century as a result of compositional contextuality
Schoenberg's search for communality
Electronic music and the human ear as the new source of boundary conditions
Words about music
The composer in academia and the attitude of his fellow academics towards composition
The special problems of the American composer
Notes 187
Glossary 193
Index 199
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