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David Lewin

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Biography

David Lewin (July 2, 1933–May 5, 2003) was an American music theorist, music critic and composer. Called “the most original and far-ranging theorist of his generation” (Cohn 2001), he did his most influential theoretical work on the development of transformational theory, which involves the application of mathematical group theory to music.

Lewin was born in New York City and studied piano from a young age. He graduated from Harvard in 1954 with a degree in mathematics. Lewin then studied theory and composition with Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, Edward Cone, and Earl Kim at Princeton University, earning an M. F.A. in 1958. He returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1958–61. Following teaching positions at the University of California, Berkeley (1961–1967), the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1967–1979), and Yale University (1979–1985), he returned to Harvard as the Walter W. Naumberg Professor of Music in 1985. Lewin was a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in 1983–1984, served as the president of the Society for Music Theory from 1985–1988 and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago in 1995, from the New England Conservatory of Music in 2000, and posthumously from Université Marc Bloch de Strasbourg, France, in 2006.

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