Milton Babbitt was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and received his early musical training in Jackson, Mississippi. Even at this stage, he revealed an innate flair for mathematics and this, along with his artistic abilities, determined the formulation of many of his musical theories.
His academic studies included degree courses at both New York and Princeton where, as a student, he took private lessons in composition with Roger Sessions. His teaching career at Princeton began in 1943 when he gave lessons in music theory and mathematics and in 1960 he was made William Shubael Conant Professor of Music. Over the years he has been associated with many prestigious academic establishments including the Juilliard School; the Rubin Academy, Jerusalem; Berkshire Music Centre (Tanglewood); Darmstadt Summer Course; New England Conservatory, Massachusetts and the Composers' Conference at Johnson State in Vermont.
A founder member of the Committee of Direction, Electronic Music Centre of Columbia-Princeton Universities; member of the Editorial Board, Perspectives of New Music and member of the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, Milton Babbitt has written many articles and reviews which have gained him a reputation not just as a composer but also as a theorist.
In 1949 and 1964, he received the New York Music Critics’ Citation, held a Guggenheim grant in 1961 and was elected member of the National Institute of the Arts and Letters in 1965. His work in the field of electronic music and his exploration of the technique of integral serialism have influenced the musical thinking of many young American composers. In 1980 he received a Doctorate of Music from the University of Glasgow.
Milton Babbitt died on 29 January 2011 in Princeton, New Jersey.