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Milton Babbitt

American composer born 10 May 1916 in Philadelphia; died 29 January 2011

 Milton Babbitt was a major influence for many contemporary musicians, both intellectually and musically. A wide array of major works written in the dodecaphonic system as well as an important body of essays and articles on the same topic opened the door to a broader understanding of the language of serialism and fostered its acceptance among the eclectic styles of the close of the twentieth century. Babbitt was also widely known for his passion for jazz and his astounding mastery of the American popular music repertoire. All Set, written for jazz ensemble, illustrates the formidably flexible range of this typically American composer.

Born 10 May 1916 in Philadelphia, Babbitt studied composition under Roger Sessions, first privately and then at Princeton University. He received degrees from New York University and Princeton University, as well as honorary degrees from Middlebury College, Swarthmore College, New York University, the New England Conservatory, University of Glasgow, and Northwestern University. He taught at Princeton University and at the Juilliard School.

An extensive catalogue of works for many different combinations of instruments and voice, along with his innovative synthesized sound creations made Babbitt one of the most celebrated composers of the twentieth century. He was a founder and member of the Committee of Direction for the Electronic Music Center of Columbia-Princeton Universities and a member of the Editorial Board of Perspectives of New Music. He received numerous honors, commissions, prizes, and awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “life’s work as a distinguished and seminal American composer.” He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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