Carter, Elliott (Cook Jr.)

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Carter, Elliott (Cook Jr.)

outstanding American composer and teacher; b. N.Y., Dec. 11, 1908. After graduating from the Horace Mann H.S. in N.Y. in 1926, Carter entered Harvard Univ., majoring in literature and languages; at the same time, he studied piano at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. In 1930 he devoted himself exclusively to music at Harvard, taking up harmony and counterpoint with Piston, and orchestration with Hill, and also attended in 1932 a course given there by Hoist. He obtained his M.A. in 1932, and then went to Paris, where he studied with Boulanger and at the École Normale de Musique, receiving a licence de contrepoint) in the interim, he learned mathematics, Latin, and Greek. In 1935 he returned to the U.S. He was music director of the Ballet Caravan (1937–39) and gave courses in music and also in mathematics, physics, and classical Greek at St. John’s Coll. in Annapolis, Md. (1940–44). He then taught at the Peabody Cons, of Music in Baltimore (1946–48). He was on the faculty of Columbia Univ. (1948–50), Queens Coll. of the City Univ. of N.Y. (1955–56), and Yale Univ. (1960–62). In 1963 he was composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, and in 1964 held a similar post in West Berlin. In 1967–68 he was a prof .-at-large at Cornell Univ. He held Guggenheim fellowships in 1945–46 and 1950–51, and the American Prix de Rome in 1953. In 1965 he received the Creative Arts Award from Brandéis Univ. In 1953 he received first prize in the Concours International de Composition pour Quatuor a Cordes in Liège for first String Quartet; in 1960 he received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his second String Quartet, which also received the N.Y. Music Critics Circle Award and was further elected as the most important work of the year by the International Rostrum of Composers. He again won the Pulitzer Prize in Music, for his third String Quartet, in 1973. In 1985 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan. In 1987 he was made a Dommandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts des Lettres of France. In 1991 he was named a Commendatore of the Order of Merit in Italy. Carter’s reputation as one of the most important American composers grew with each new work he produced; Stravinsky was quoted as saying that Carter’s Double Concerto was the first true American masterpiece. The evolution of Carter’s compositional style is marked by his constant preoccupation with taxonomic considerations. His early works are set in a neo-Classical style. He later absorbed the Schoenbergian method of composition with 12 equal tones. Finally he developed a system of serial organization in which all parameters, including intervals, metric divisions, rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, and instrumental timbres, become parts of the total conception of each individual work. In this connection, he introduced the term “metric modulation,” in which secondary rhythms in a polyrhythmic section assume dominance expressed in constantly changing meters, often in such unusual time signatures as 10/16, 21/8, etc. Furthermore, he assigns to each participating instrument in a polyphonic work a special interval, a distinctive rhythmic figure, and a selective register, so that the individuality of each part is clearly outlined, a distribution which is often reinforced by placing the players at a specified distance from one another. E. and K. Stone ed. The Writings of E. C: An American Composer Looks at Modern Music (N.Y., 1977). J. Bernard ed. E. G: Collected Essays and Lectures, 1937–1995 (Rochester, N.Y., 1997).


DRAMATIC: Opera: Tom and Lily (1934; withdrawn); What Next? (Berlin, Sept. 16, 1999). ballet:Pocahontas (Keene, N.H., Aug. 17, 1936; withdrawn; orch. version, 1938–39; N.Y., May 24, 1939); The Minotaur (N.Y., March 26, 1947). incidental music to: Sophocles’s Philoc-tetes (1931; Cambridge, Mass., March 15, 1933); Plautus’s Mos-tellaria (Cambridge, Mass., April 15, 1936); Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (1937; withdrawn). orch.: Sym. (1937; withdrawn); Prelude, Fanfare, and Polka for Small Orch. (1938); Sym. No. 1 (1942; Rochester, N.Y., April 27, 1944; rev. 1954); Holiday Overture (1944; rev. 1961); Elegy for Strings (1952; N.Y., March 1, 1953; arranged from the Elegy for Cello and Piano, 1943); Variations for Orchestra (1954–55; Louisville, April 21, 1956); Double Concerto for Harpsichord, Piano, and 2 Chamber Orchs. (N.Y., Sept. 6, 1961); Piano Concerto (1964–65; Boston, Jan. 6, 1967); Concerto for Orchestra (1968–69; N.Y., Feb. 5, 1970); A Symphony of 3 Orchestras (1976; N.Y., Feb. 17, 1977); Penthode for 5 Instrumental Quartets (1984–85; London, July 26, 1985); 3 Occasions (1986–89; 1, A Celebration of Some 100 x 150 Notes, 1986; Houston, April 10, 1987; 2, Remembrance, Tanglewood, Aug. 10, 1988; 3, Anniversary, London Oct. 5, 1989); Oboe Concerto (1986–87; Zurich, June 17, 1988); Violin Concerto (San Francisco, May 2, 1990); Partita (1993; Chicago, Feb. 17, 1994); Adagio Tenebroso (1994; London, Sept. 13, 1995). chamber:Canonic Suite for 4 Alto Saxophones (1939; rev. for 4 Clarinets, 1955–56; rev. for 4 Saxophones, 1981); Pastoral for English Horn or Viola or Clarinet and Piano (1940); Elegy for Cello and Piano (1943; arranged for String Quartet, 1946, for String Orch., 1952, and for Viola and Piano, 1961); Piano Sonata (1945–46; N.Y radio broadcast, Feb. 16, 1947); Woodwind Quintet (1948; N.Y., Feb. 21, 1949); Cello Sonata (1948; N.Y., Feb. 27, 1950); 8 Etudes and a Fantasy for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1949–50; N.Y., Oct. 28, 1952); 8 Pieces for 4 Timpani for 1 Performer (1950–66); 4 string quartets: No. 1 (1950–51; N.Y., Feb. 26, 1953), No. 2 (1959; N.Y., March 25, I960), No. 3 (1971; N.Y., Jan. 23, 1973), and No. 4 (Miami, Sept. 17, 1986); Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord (1952; N.Y., Nov. 19, 1953); Canon for 3: In memo-riam Igor Stravinsky for 3 Equal Instruments (1971; N.Y., Jan. 23, 1972); Duo for Violin and Piano (1973–74; N.Y., March 21, 1975); Brass Quintet for 2 Trumpets, Horn, and 2 Trombones (BBC, London, Oct. 20, 1974); A Fantasy About Purcell’s “Fantasia Upon One Note” for 2 Trumpets, Horn, and 2 Trombones (1974; N.Y., Jan. 13, 1975); Birthday Fanfare for Sir William dock’s 70th for 3 Trumpets, Vibraphone, and Glockenspiel (London, May 3, 1978); Night Fantasies for Piano (Bath, June 2, 1980); Triple Duo for Violin, Cello, Flute, Clarinet, Piano, and Percussion (1982–83; N.Y., April 23, 1983); Changes for Guitar (N.Y., Dec. 11, 1983); Canon for 4: Homage to William[Glock] for Flute, Bass Clarinet, Violin, and Cello (Bath, June 8, 1984); Esprit rude/esprit doux for Flute and Clarinet (1984; Baden-Baden, March 31, 1985); Riconoscenza per Gojfredo Petrassi for Violin (Pontino, June 15, 1984); Birthday Flourish for 5 Trumpets or Brass Quintet (San Francisco, Sept. 14> 1988); Enchanted Preludes for Flute and Cello (N.Y., May 16, 1988); Con leggerezza pensosa for Clarinet, Violin, and Cello (Latina, Italy, Sept. 29, 1990); Quintet for Piano and Winds (1991; Cologne, Sept. 13, 1992); Scrivo in Vento for Flute (Avignon, July 20, 1991); Bariolage for Harp (Geneva, March 23, 1992); Immer Neu for Oboe and Harp (Sermoneta, Italy, June 30, 1992); Immer Song for Oboe (Witten, April 25, 1992); 3 preceding works constitute Trilogy for Oboe and Harp (Sermoneta, June 30, 1992); Gra for Clarinet (Sermoneta, June 4, 1993); Figment for Cello (1994; N.Y., May 8, 1995). vocal: 11 madrigals for 3 to 8 Voices (1937); Heart Not So Heavy as Mine for Chorus (1938; N.Y., March 31, 1939); The Defense of Corinth for Speaker, Men’s Voices, and Piano, 4-Hands (1941; Cambridge, Mass., March 12, 1942); 3 poems of Robert Frost for Mezzo-soprano or Baritone and Piano (1943; also for Soprano or Tenor and Chamber Orch., 1975); Warble for Lilac Time for Soprano or Tenor and Piano or Small Orch. (1943; Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Sept. 14, 1946; rev. 1954); Voyage for Mezzo-soprano or Baritone and Piano (1943; N.Y., March 16, 1947; also for Small Orch., 1975; rev. 1979); The Harmony of Morning for Women’s Voices and Small Orch. (1944; N.Y., Feb. 25, 1945); Musicians Wrestle Everywhere for Mixed Voices and Strings ad libitum (1945; N.Y., Feb. 12, 1946); A Mirror on Which to Dwell for Soprano and 9 Players (1975; N.Y., Feb. 24, 1976); Syringa for Mezzo-soprano, Bass, and 11 Players (N.Y., Dec. 10, 1978); In Sleep, in Thunder for Tenor and 14 Players (1981; London, Oct. 27, 1982); Of Challenge and of Love for Soprano and Piano (1995).


A. Edwards, Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds: A Conversation with E. C. (N.Y., 1971); E. C: A 70th Birthday Tribute (London, 1978); D. Schifi, The Music ofE. C.(N.Y., 1983; 2nd ed., 1998); C. Rosen, The Musical Languages of E. C. (Washington, D.C., 1984); D. Harvey, The Later Music ofE. G: A Study in Music Theory and Analysis (N.Y., 1989); E. Restagno, E. C: In Conversation with Enzo Restagno for Settemre Musica 1989 (N.Y., 1991); A. Edwards, C. Rosen, and H. Holliger, Entretiens avec E. C.(Geneva, 1992); J. Link, E. G: A Guide to Research (N.Y., 2000).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Carter, Elliott (Cook Jr.)

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