String Quartet No. 5 (Babbitt)

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String Quartet No. 5 is the fifth of six chamber-music works in the string quartet medium by the American composer Milton Babbitt.


Babbitt’s Fifth Quartet was written in 1982 and is dedicated to the Sequoia Quartet, who first performed it on 24 October 1982 (Babbitt 1990).


It is composed using superarrays, which can also be described as an array of arrays: multiple arrays unfolding simultaneously in counterpoint against each other. The use of superarrays extends and enriches the compositional possibilities of twelve-tone technique (Lake 1986, 88). The basic array of the Quartet is the same as the one used in My Complements to Roger, transformations of which are also found in My Ends are My Beginnings for solo clarinet (Mead 1984, 325).


  • Three Contemporary American String Quartets. Mel Powell: String Quartet 1982; Elliott Carter: Quartet No. 4 (1984); Milton Babbitt: Quartet No. 5 (1982). Composers Quartet. CD recording. Music & Arts CD-606. Berkeley: Music and Arts Program of America, 1990.


  • Babbitt, Milton. 1990. "Quartet No. 5". Program note in the booklet accompanying Three American String Quartets. Music & Arts CD-606. Berkeley: Music and Arts Program of America.
  • Barkin, Elaine, and Martin Brody. 2001. "Babbitt, Milton (Byron)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Dubiel, Joseph. 1990. "Three Essays on Milton Babbitt" [Part 1]. Perspectives of New Music 28, no. 2 (Summer) 216–61.
  • Lake, William E. 1986. "The Architecture of a Superarray Composition: Milton Babbitt's String Quartet No. 5". Perspectives of New Music 24, no. 2 (Spring–Summer): 88–111.
  • Mead, Andrew W. 1984. "Recent Developments in the Music of Milton Babbitt". Musical Quarterly 70 (1984): 310–31.
  • Mead, Andrew Washburn. 1994. An Introduction to the Music of Milton Babbitt. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691033145.