From Tod Machover –
Just read the news that Elliott Carter passed away today, a month short of his 104th birthday. What a big loss, what an inspiring life. I was lucky enough to study with Elliott at Juilliard and have always considered him my mentor. He remained imaginative, brilliant, searching and expanding to the very end, something to always aspire to. Beautiful obituary by Anne Midgette in the Washington Post.
I wrote this text about Elliott Carter for a Nonesuch Records retrospective CD box set a few years ago: “White-hot imagination – profound yet playful, free-flowing yet disciplined – is perhaps what I admire most about Elliott Carter. In fact, when I was studying with Elliott at Juilliard in the mid-70s, contact with his unbounded creativity was initially disorienting but ultimately the most inspiring and lasting mentorship that I received. I had been used to more traditional composition teachers who established clear stylistic and theoretical boundaries, and who carefully monitored my compositional progress from week to week and work to work. Not so with Elliott. During each lesson he’d look at whatever growing piece I brought in as if it were a sketch of his own, never passing judgment, but rather inventing on the spot multiple ways of approaching each musical moment, measure, or movement. The ideas would come fast and furious, a color here, a harmony there, a more effective transition, a more convincing conclusion. For several months, I was bewildered about what to do with this information. Which ideas, if any, to retain? What continuity held these comments together? But gradually I started quizzing Elliott about underlying principles in his music, especially concerning direction in non-traditional harmony and the careful balance of complex textures. In doing so, I came to appreciate Elliott’s way of thinking, grounded in deep instincts rather than easily described systems. To me, it is the courage to follow such unspoken principles that has allowed Carter to invent uniquely fresh – never prepackaged – solutions for each musical situation, and that makes his musical mind the most brilliant of our time.”