Wednesday 4 February 2009

Another Quote For The Fourth Of February

Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter: I began to be interested in many of aspects of composition besides the harmonic structure. I felt that if I used a very - not simple, but easily manipulated harmonic structure then I could focus on other aspects of composition, like the spacing of chords and musical characterisation.

And you see one of the very basic problems of all this is I'm really writing contrapuntal music so that these chords are seldom notes played at the same time. And already this ends up causing a conflict of purpose. The problem has always been for the me the desire for a kind of contrapuntal and polyrhythmic structure, which couldn't sound the chords as simultaneous attacks. It involved all kinds of intellectual conflicts. I mean if you have one line going one way and another line coming against it, how do you decide which of the intervals you consider part of the structure?

John Link: And how do you resolve those kinds of questions?.

EC: I resolve them in different ways. Sometimes, for instance, I would just establish one chord and have all the different lines play only those notes. Or play those notes for a short time and then change one of the intervals and gradually move into another chord. I've tried every kind of thing I could think of. And in the end also, I found that the other side of it was that using many chord patterns led me to passages I didn't like.

JL: How so?

EC: I just didn't like the sound of them. So then I worked around until I found passages I did like, even if it didn't follow any of these systems exactly. All through my compositions there are moments when I did things that I thought sounded better than what this chord system produced, because it seemed more in character with what I wanted. There were many different intentions fighting together which in the end soon made me feel that maybe this system was not as useful as it had been to me and that there were other matters I was more concerned with. So I simplified my vocabulary and made it into something more restricted.

From pg:33-34 of Elliott Carter's Harmony Book.

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