Dissertation Index

Author: Bernstein, Zachary

Title: Reconsidering Organicism in Milton Babbitt\'s Music and Thought

Institution: CUNY Graduate Center

Begun: April 2013

Completed: June 2015


This dissertation makes two related but distinct claims. The first explores the influence of organicism, particularly in the hierarchical formulation developed by Heinrich Schenker, on Milton Babbitt’s thought. This influence is shown to inform Babbitt’s writings on a range of issues, guiding his analyses, his view of music cognition, and his understanding of the tonal and twelve-tone systems, including his own compositional twelve-tone techniques. Analysis of Babbitt’s compositions, however, reveals several complications with the organicist model: there are a number of pieces and situations that conflict with the expectations of hierarchical organicism. As a result, this dissertation advocates for a more limited and nuanced view of the role of organicism in Babbitt’s music, situating it as one concern among many. Various non-systematic aspects of Babbitt’s music, artistic concerns that have little to do with the twelve-tone system, are illuminated by this approach. This dissertation is informed throughout by the newly available Milton Babbitt Collection of the Library of Congress.

Keywords: Milton Babbitt, Heinrich Schenker, organicism, twelve-tone music, serialism, hierarchy


Chapter 1: Some Reflections on Milton Babbitt, Schenkerian
Chapter 2: The Seam in Milton Babbitt’s Compositional Development: Composition for Tenor and Six Instruments
Chapter 3: Composition for Four Instruments and Du: Two Case Studies in Serial Hierarchy
Chapter 4: The Problem of Completeness
Chapter 5: Serial Anomalies and Extra-Systematic Criteria
Afterword: \"Anything Vital is Problematical\"


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