Phenomenological Approach to Elliott Carter’s Music

by danielgoode

May 11, 2012 12:39:53 PM EDT

Steven Beck performed the complete solo piano music of Carter this May 5th at the New Spectrum Foundation on 23rd Street, NYC. It was about an hour and a half of very technically demanding music which he played with panache and complete conviction. He was a pleasure.

The music was either soft-ish, loud, or very loud. It was either very fast or slow. You could cut a swatch of it at any time from his continuing career (he’s 103) and it would sort of sound the same—similar. (I’ve thought that of Philip Glass, too, on the other end of the spectrum of style). Punkt. Period. That’s all. Nothing more to say. Nada.

Well, there’s a little more: Most of the music makes an auditory impression of cantus fermi. There is a long, accented series of tones, “elaborated on” by very fast sprinkles of notes in between and around. Both layers are non-tonal. It’s amazing how few gestures he uses, but also, how tedious to hear them over and over again.

I am, admittedly, looking through blurry glasses which can only discern general shapes and qualities. I’m not sure I want to focus in.

It’s catty, but fun to say that Carter’s Little [Liver] Pills must work, because the family invention has given their composer-son a century plus of life and creativity. Thumbnail review.

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