Thursday, December 11, 2008

Elliot Carter: still composing at 100

Don't that just inspire ya!

While I write this, I'm listening to a Concert Programme interview on Eda Radich's midday programme, Upbeat, in which she's talking about Elliot Carter, who's still writing prolifically in his golden years. The NZ person who's being interviewed, James Gardner, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Carter and is the sort of person who inspires you to go out and start listening to Carter's music. Unfortunately it looks as though our local library doesn't have a single CD of Carter's music.
I must say that he's not a composer I've known anything about, even though he's touted as the USA's greatest composer. (John Adams, move over, apparently!) What Gardner is offering is an explanation of the way Carter has been working for the last sixty or so years: the way he allows for shifts in rhythmic structure, while still managing to combine various rhythms without making things sound as though they're falling apart, and the way in which Carter uses tonality in his own (unique) way by focusing on intervals rather than straight chords. It's something to know, but not necessarily so easy to hear, especially in the few brief excerpts we had played.

Footnote: Eva Radich interviews a great bunch of people on her programme (which I seldom hear when they're first broadcast these days because I don't get the chance to listen at work the way I used to) but sometimes she says the oddest things. Occasionally she seems almost to put her foot in it in her enthusiasm to get a comment in, and other times she comes up with a comment that's almost at odds with where the interview is going. She's always very knowledgeable and up with the play (after having been a producer of this programme for several years, she obviously now has someone equally efficient on the job) but just sometimes you think: Why on earth did you say that!
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