Writer of very complex, impenetrable music. He prided himself on being inaccessible to all but a few. He was a proponent of "total serialism," arranging in scales not just notes and striving for dynamics, timbre, and register.
He studied violin, piano, clarinet, and saxophone in his youth with some of his influences coming from jazz.
His 1958 essay "The Composer as Specialist" was published in High Fidelity magazine under the title, "Who Care if You Listen?" This was the work of the magazine editor and not Babbitt, but it caused an uproar and placed him in a controversial light he did not desire.
He grew up the son of a successful actuary who inspired his abiding love for mathematics.
He taught many future notables, including Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim.