[Smt-talk] Time-point series for Babbitt, "All Set"?

Zachary Bernstein zachbernst at aol.com
Wed Dec 19 15:27:55 PST 2012

Hi Chris and Kevin,

The digital articulation series is also present in the first eight measures as the total ensemble rhythm, the 1s in Chris's series corresponding with attacks, the 0s with rests or sustains.  I'm also not sure what the bass drum is doing in mm. 25-32.  The first time-point pieces appear in 1960, I think with "Sounds and Words" being the very first (though given his association of the time-point system with electroacoustic music in the essay "Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium," I suspect he may have first conceived of the system in relation to work on the 1961 "Composition for Synthesizer").


Zachary Bernstein
Ph.D. Candidate
CUNY Graduate Center

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Doll <dollchristopher at yahoo.com>
To: smt-talk <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>
Sent: Wed, Dec 19, 2012 6:09 pm
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Time-point series for Babbitt, "All Set"?


I don't know of any time-point series in "All Set" (I think the time points came slightly later), but there are real experts out there who may know differently. I do know it uses a digital articulation series, by which a given eighth-note attack is either active (1) or not (0), the same system used in Semi-Simple Variations. This series is presented in the drums in mm. 9-16 <1011(one beat of cut time),1111/1000,0010/0101,1110/0110,0011/1100,1001/1010,0001/0000,0100/0111,1101>, then inverted in mm. 17-24 (all drums together)<0100,0000/0111,1101/1010,0001/1001,1100/0011,0110/0101,1110/1111,1011/1000,0010>, then in mm. 25-32 retrograded in the small tom <1011,1110/0010,0000/1000,0101/1001,0011/1100,0110/0111,1010/0100,0001/1111,1101> and retrograde-inverted in the large tom <0100,0001/1101,1111/0111,1010/0110,1100/0011,1001/1000,0101/1011,1110/0000,0010>. I've never figured out what the bass drum is doing in mm. 25-32; I've meant to ask the SMT list about it, but never got around to it until now.

Much, if not all, of this analysis is in Andrew Mead's book. I'm sure he and others have deeper and fuller analyses they might be willing to share.


Christopher Doll
Assistant Professor
Department of Music
Mason Gross School of the Arts
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

  From: Kevin Holm-Hudson <kjholm2 at gmail.com>
 To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org 
 Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 2:39 PM
 Subject: [Smt-talk] Time-point series for Babbitt, "All Set"?
Dear Collective Wisdom,

I am considering using Milton Babbitt's 1957 composition for jazz
ensemble, "All Set," in a graduate class next semester. A web article,
hunsmire.tripod.com/music/allset.html, mentions that the work is
Babbitt's first to serialize rhythm according to "time point sets,"
but it does not specify what the series is.

Looking at the score, I have spotted P0 (in the brasses) and I7 (in
the saxes) easily enough... but those two parts do not appear to use a
corresponding (strict) time-point series. Quantifying the attacks in a
time-grid of eighth notes, the I7 time-point series would appear to be
<3, 5, 11, 6, 1, 4, 3, 9, 11, 4, 2, 2>, whereas the P0 time-point
series would appear to be <3, 5, 13, 1, 4, 10, 6, 11, 5, 1, 4, 1>.
Clearly the repetitions and missing numbers indicate I am looking in
the wrong place.

Does anyone know? (I looked at the piano and vibes as well, which
contain R0 and RI7, but there are repeated attack-point values there
as well.) A shot in the dark, perhaps, but I thought it couldn't hurt
to ask.


Dr. Kevin Holm-Hudson
Associate Professor, Music Theory
University of Kentucky
School of Music
465 Rose Street
105 Fine Arts Building
Lexington, KY 40506-0022

"Creativity has much to do with experience, observation and
imagination, and if any one of those key ingredients is missing, it
doesn't work." --Bob Dylan
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