Wednesday 4 February 2009

Quote For The Fourth Of February

In an interview published in 1990 he said he had never seen Howard Hanson's 'Harmonic Materials of Modern Music', and downplayed the influence of Forte on his own work. And while Carter may have benefited from the works he did consult, he clearly found them inadequate, otherwise he would never have undertaken the laborious task of compiling the Harmony Book.

An iconoclasitc desire to go his own way may have been one motivating factor, particularly given his attempts to distance himself from the 12-tone practice of Babbitt, Martino and others in the 1960s and 70s. But Carter had other reasons as well. One has to do with his working methods.

Carter sketches incessantly, often making a thousand or more pages of sketches for a single twenty-minute composition. Frequently he will re-copy a passage several times as it takes shape, preferring to put on paper changes that he could easily keep track of in his head. Looking through Carter's manuscripts one gets the feeling that the act of putting musical ideas on paper - of moving the pencil across the page - is his preferred method of getting to know his materials, and an important stimulus for his imagination.

Writing out the chords of the Harmony Book himself may have served a similar purpose, giving Carter the opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with each chord through the process of writing out its subsets and supersets.
From pg20 of Elliott Carter's Harmony Book.

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