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Elliot Carter, dead at 103

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Monday, legendary composer Elliot Carter passed away after 103 years on this planet. I think that it's safe to say that Carter lived through most of the recent musical movements and added something to almost all of them. The quick high points in his career run from Neoclassical compositions during and before WW I, atonal compositions after 1950, polyrhythmic compositions, and finally, compositions that deftly mixed all of these forms while weaving in lyrical elements.
Boston had a long relationship with Carter, including commissioning the Interventions for piano and orchestra in 2008, back when Carter was a spry 99 years old.

He won his first of two Pulitzer prizes for his second string quartet in 1960.

He was the last living connection to what I think of as "old contemporary music." Born only two years after Dimitri Shostakovich, the world he was born into was one where the most experimental and enlightened music existed exclusively in world class concert halls, performed by people in black tie. You couldn't find bootleg recordings on youtube or listen to his compositions repeatedly while going about your chores. He, the musicians, and the organizations that supported his work had an intimacy that is missing even from today's darlings of the increasingly international concert circuit. His contemporaries were people like Aaron Copland, who integrated jazz and other popular music into his compositions. He was educated, thoughtful, sensitive, and aware of the connections that link diverse subjects, spending as much time reading poetry as listening to music.

He will be missed.

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About Author

John is an independent writer and curator. He was the Editor in Chief of Big Red & Shiny from 2012-13 and Journal Editor through June 2014. John has written for Art New England, Art Papers, Artsfuse.org, Artwrit.com, DailyServing.com, the New American Paintings blog, Printeresting.org and others.

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