Compatible Quotes: Elliott Carter

I am a radical, having a nature that leads me to perpetual revolt.

One thing I can’t understand is why people have such trouble with modern music. It seems to me to be perfectly intelligible. When I hear one of my pieces again, or listen to the record, I don’t see why people could find this perplexing in any way. Yet audiences can’t make head or tail of it… I finally said the hell with that whole point of view and decided to write what I really always hoped to write, and what I thought was most important for me. I’ve taken that point of view ever since.

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  1. Pontormo says

    He has the same conceit that I hear in other artists from time to time.
    He is saying that if you dislike the experience of his music, it can only mean that you cannot understand it.

  2. Frank Roellinger says

    I don’t think that this is conceit. I think that it is the only avenue open to the true artist. If you know much about Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, you know that neither ever intentionally tried to be commercially successful, yet both were, and both remained true to their artistic beliefs. Of course, many artists remain true to themselves and are never very successful commercially. But consider the vast number of aspiring artists who do try very hard to do exactly what they think the public wants, and never get anywhere either artistically or commercially. Trying to please your audience is by no means a guarantee of success. Far better to do what you feel is your truest, artistic best, and live with whatever happens.

    BTW… I think Carter’s “Variations For Orchestra” is an outstanding piece that seems to have set its own unique goals and met them perfectly. Carter might have disagreed, but I hear more than a few parallels between it and bebop. It can be heard beginning here:

  3. says

    Do what will please you most, as a composer, band leader, or instrumentalist; everything else will make you feel sick. The best example for that would be the great Artie Shaw:

    “Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” ∽ Charlie “Bird” Parker

    As soon as Artie stopped living his music, he stopped playing it for the rest of his life. He became one of those grumpy old intellectuals instead.

    Elliott Carter did what pleased him most. And that for 103 years! ∽ There is indeed no boundary line. R.I.P.