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

Anton Vishio ajvishio at gmail.com
Wed Dec 19 16:55:37 PST 2012

Hello Kevin,

you might want to have a look at the first part of David Lewin's 1995 Music
Theory Spectrum article, "Generalized Interval Systems for Babbitt's Lists,
and for Schoenberg's String Trio"; parts 1 and 2 of the article lay out
some formal preliminaries involving binary state arithmetic and how his
transformational machinery models it, and parts 3 and 4 look at examples
from Babbitt's music, in particular two complete circuits of his digital
articulation series in All Set and some related formal plans in the earlier
Composition for Four Instruments and the much later song cycle The Head of
the Bed, citing related literature.

I don't have my score handy but if Zack doesn't know what the bass drum is
doing in bars 25-32 I probably don't either.  Years ago a then-undergrad
student of mine at Washington University with a background in computer
science wrote a nice paper for a class I taught exploring some ideas about
other operations on rhythmic 'bits' that Babbitt might have been using in
various sections of the piece - ideas that seemed potentially fruitful.
 Unfortunately, that paper is stored in some box on the other side of the
country at the moment, but it suggests there might be more to uncover
concerning Babbitt's rhythmic techniques in the work.


Anton Vishio
University of San Francisco (part-time)

On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 3:27 PM, Zachary Bernstein <zachbernst at aol.com>wrote:

> 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").
>  Best,
> Zack
>  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"?
>  Kevin,
> 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.
> Best,
> Chris
> --
> 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.
> Khh
> --
> 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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