In music a time point (point in time) is the beginning of a sound, rather than its duration. In serial music a time-point set, proposed in 1962 by Milton Babbitt, is a temporal order of pitches in a tone row which indicates the instants at which the notes start. This has certain advantages over a duration scale or row built from multiples of a unit, derived from Olivier Messiaen.
since duration is a measure of distance between time points, as interval is a measure of distance between pitch points, we begin by interpreting interval as duration. Then, pitch number is interpretable as the point of initiation of a temporal event, that is, as a time-point number.
For example, a measure may be divided into twelve metrical positions. In 3/4 this equals sixteenth notes. The start of each position, or time point, may then be labeled, in order, 0-11. Pitches may then be assigned locations within measures according to their pitch set number, now their pitch/time-set number. In Babbitt's first example he shows subsequent numbers which ascend (0-11) as within the same measure (if four follows three it may sound immediately), and subsequent numbers which descend as in the following measure (if three follows four it must necessarily wait for the next appearance of time-point three).
Babbitt uses time points in Partitions (1957), All Set (1957), and Post-Partitions (1966), as well as in Phonemena (1969–70), String Quartets No. 3 (1969–70) and No. 4 (1970), Arie da capo (1974), My Ends Are My Beginnings (1978), and Paraphrases (1979).
- Babbitt, Milton (1962) "Twelve-tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium", Perspectives of New Music 1, no. 1 (Fall): 49–79. Citation on p.63.
- Roads, Curtis (2001). Microsound, p.74-8. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-18215-7.
- de Leeuw, Ton (2006). Music of the Twentieth Century, p.171. ISBN 9789053567654.
- Taruskin, Richard (2009). The Oxford History of Western Music: Music in the Late Twentieth Century, p.166-167. ISBN 9780195384857.
- Griffiths, Paul (1996). Modern Music and After, p.64. ISBN 9780198165118.
- Mead, Andrew (1987) "About About Time's Time: A Survey of Milton Babbitt's Recent Rhythmic Practice", Perspectives of New Music 25, nos. 1-2 (Winter/Summer 1987): 182-235. Citations on pp.187–89, 192–93, 195–97, 200–205, 215, and 225–30.
- Mead, Andrew (1987) "About About Time's Time: A Survey of Milton Babbitt's Recent Rhythmic Practice", Perspectives of New Music 25, nos. 1-2 (Winter/Summer 1987): 182-235. Citation on p.231n1.
Further reading 
- Johnson, William Marvin (1984). "Timepoint Sets and Meter". Perspectives of New Music 23, no. 1 (Fall-Winter): 278–97.
- Scotto, Ciro (1988). "Preparing a Performance of Babbitt's Arie da Capo". Perspectives of New Music 26, no. 2 (Summer): 6-24.
- Wuorinen, Charles (1979). Simple Composition. New York: Longman.
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