American composer, theorist and teacher Milton Babbitt was born in Philadelphia on 10 May 1916. After briefly studying mathematics (to which he returned during World War II for some secret research in Washington), he switched to music at New York University, where he became interested in the music of the Second Viennese School. Later he extended the dodecaphonic system to select duration, dynamics, registration and timbre, as well as pitch, and this became the basis of the 'total serialism' of the 1950s.
After graduating, he studied composition with Roger Sessions, and later became interested in electronic music and the extreme rhythmic precision which could be generated using synthesisers. He taught at Princeton University and at Juillliard, and was also interested in jazz and American popular music.
He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on 29 January 2011, aged 94, having become one of the most celebrated and influential of twentieth century composers.
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