November 11, 2012


The American Music of Elliott Carter. A composer of the American experience.
Boston Globe, November 11, 2012.

The image is from Carter's business card, given to me by Helen Frost-Jones, Carter's wife, following a question-and-answer session at Orchestra Hall in Chicago for the 1994 premiere of Partita. I had asked a question, probably impertinent and almost certainly dull, but, in retrospect, it was a supreme encouragement to have passed some small sort of muster with Carter's most devotedly fierce protector.

I've spent a lot of agreeable time writing about Carter and his music, including interviewing him back in 2008 (outtakes here), and spilling many words over the Tanglewood celebration of his centenary:

1. Punctuality
2: Genealogy
3: The stuff that dreams are made of
4: Identity politics
5: Role modeling
6: This Is Your Life
7: Either/Or
8: You've got a head start

Reading over those dispatches again, I find my impressions still evolving—for example, I've come to hear a lot of the passing neo-classical references in Carter's later music to be less an extension of a Coplandesque style and more a critique of it—but the idea of Carter as a composer profoundly concerned with capturing the energy and friction of a democratic society, an idea that first fully crystallized for me in that full-immersion festival, is one that remains at the core of why I love the music so much.

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