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Milton Babbitt papers

Identifier: MS-0916

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

This collection contains photographs, handwritten composition manuscripts, career-related ephemera, and correspondence relating to composer Milton Babbitt and Deborah Ishlon.


  • Creation: 1961-1988 and undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Special Collections department. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) was an American composer, mathematician, and music theorist. Babbitt was known for his use of serial compositional techniques including the twelve-tone system. He served on the music faculties of Princeton University and the Juilliard School and contributed to the field of electronic music.

"In 1931 Babbitt entered the University of Pennsylvania with the intention of becoming a mathematician, but he soon transferred to New York University, concentrating on music under marion Bauer and philip James . He received the BA in music in 1935. As a student and during the ensuing years, Babbitt immersed himself in the intellectual milieu of New York, encountering influential philosophers such as Sidney Hook and James Wheelright, developing a life-long engagement with analytical philosophy, and reading widely in rapidly emerging and sometimes short-lived journals such as Symposium and Politics. His early attraction to the music of Varèse and Stravinsky soon gave way to an absorption in that of Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern—particularly significant at a time when 12-tone music was unknown to many and viewed with skepticism by others." -Oxford Music Online

Deborah Ishlon (1925-1994) was the director of the press department for Columbia Records, also serving as Vice President of Creative Services. According to an interview with George Avakian, she worked with artists including Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. She is credited with writing the liner notes for albums released by Columbia Records, including the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein. She also wrote a book, "Girl Singer" about the making of a recording star.


0.94 Cubic Feet (2 legal size document boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains photographs, manuscripts, and other ephemera related to composer and mathemetician Milton Babbitt.


Arranged in original order except where noted otherwise.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was compiled by Deborah Ishlon, an executive at Columbia Records who had a close relationship with Babbitt. Upon Ishlon's death, the collection was donated to the university by her colleague Alvin Deutsch.

Related Materials

See Milton Babbitt Music Sketches, 1899-2006. Library of Congress.

Processing Information

Processed by Sam Bessen in consultation with Katie Carey, 2022.

Guide to the Milton Babbitt Papers
Sam Bessen
2022 November
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA