Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joseph N. Straus

Subject Categories



Heinrich Schenker; Milton Babbitt; Organicism; Serialism; Twelve-Tone Music


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.

Included in

Music Commons



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