Sunday marks the 103rd birthday of one of the idols of my youth, Elliott Carter. I learned so much from studying his scores in my teens, and I learned so much more from my interactions with him as a grad student.
Carter has thrown down many gauntlets for the composition world in his life, but none is more imposing than the challenge he gives us to this day: the accomplishment of consistent growth and compositional productivity over an unprecedented time span. He’s made me give a lot of thought (probably more than necessary) to the question of what bodily and mental capacities are absolutely essential for me to continue composing. In a way, he has encouraged me to strip down my necessities to a bare minimum, to find ways to compose even if my eyesight fails me, even if my hearing fades away, even if my fingers lose their independence. He has also encouraged me — all of us — to continue to learn and grow well beyond our student years.
Hats off, Elliott, and many happy returns.