We are tardy in adding our voice to the vast chorus of congratulations that have greeted Elliott Carter’s attainment of centenarian status.  Getting old is not in itself an achievement, but what makes Mr. Carter’s milestone all the more remarkable is that he remains so amazingly productive and healthy in mind and body.  He has produced more music in the last decade than most composers do in a lifetime and his work has become deeper, richer and more complex (some would say unlistenable) with the passage of time.   We can’t top Willard Scott but we do want to do a respectful shout-out to our man, Elli.  

Our friends at NPR have a terrific article with some sound samples. 

There an excellent conversation with Carter, Daniel Barenboim, James Levine and Charlie Rose here.

The Library of Congress Music Division has an extensive collection of digitized holograph music manuscripts by Carter. 

Stephen Soderberg’s tribute is here.

And, of course, Carter now has his own MySpace page.

9 Responses to “The Amazing Mr. Carter”
  1. Alan Theisen says:


    Knock yourself out:


  2. Anthony Cornicello says:

    Hey all!

    Do any of you know if there are any links to broadcasts of the most recent Carter works? The description of the recent BSO “Interventions” sounds intriguing. I’d say the most recent piece with which I’m familiar is from the early 90s, so I’d be interested in hearing more recent works.


  3. Christian says:

    Hi Jerry. Thanks for posting. Just got back from the conference on Carter at IRCAM (more about that over at my blog later today) to find out that my interview with Andrea Shea appeared on about 50 NPR stations as part of her Elliott Carter birthday piece. The link is below: I show up at about the 2’30” mark.



  4. Alan Theisen says:

    Furthermore, I think Lawrence Dillion hit the nail on the head a few months back with his assessment of the Second and Third String Quartets. They are not my favorite pieces by Carter (especially not the third – ICK!). It’s a shame that so many musicians out there think they “know” Carter because of their passing familiarity (whether through music history or music theory textbooks/classes) with the middle-period string quartets or Double Concerto.

    I’ll repeat: Unless you’ve heard the Boston Concerto, Symphonia, the Violin Concerto, Tempo e Tempi, Dialogues, Esprit Rude Esprit Doux, the Piano Sonata, Holiday Overture, Three Poems of Robert Frost, Four Lauds for Solo Violin, etc., you don’t know Carter at all.

  5. Alan Theisen says:

    If you watch the Charlie Rose interview, pay attention to how Carter describes each of his pieces as an adventure, then goes on to say that the more interesting “adventures” he’s participated in recently involve much thinner textures.

    This may be the wrong way to think (and I might receive criticism for this statement), but I regard Carter’s post-1990 works as being in the same style as the 1960-1985 period but with all of the “extra junk” removed…

  6. Wolfgang says:

    I Think his music had more clarity with age!
    Amazing composer!

  7. Jerry Bowles says:

    I was thinking of the way good wine gets smoother with age but at the same time takes on nuances that aren’t perceptible in earlier years. But, you’re right, complex (in the sense of gnarly) is the wrong word in this context.

  8. Alan Theisen says:

    Ditto Nathan Brock.

    Compare Sound Fields, the Boston Concerto, and the last movement of Symphonia with the Piano Concerto and the Duo for Violin and Piano. Huge differences, there…

  9. Nathan Brock says:

    “…and his work has become deeper, richer and more complex (some would say unlistenable) with the passage of time.”

    I’m a bit confused by this – by any objective measure, Carter’s music has become if anything less dense and complex (in the surface-detail kind of way) in the last twenty years; surely the most complex and “unlistenable” period in Carter’s career was the 60s and 70s, peaking with pieces like the Double Concerto and the Third Quartet. More recent works are considerably more streamlined, their gestures clearer on first hearing.