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.