The Online Program of events for the 2022 AMS-SEM-SMT Joint Annual Meeting appears below. This program is subject to change. The final program will be published in early November.
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Carter, 10 Years On
Alternative: 90 minutes session length, SMT
Carter, 10 Years On
The tenth anniversary of Elliott Carter’s death is November 5, 2022. To commemorate this date, and as a follow-up to the 2009 SMT session “Carter 101” (which recognized his 101st birthday), we have organized a session titled “Carter, 10 Years On.” Our session brings together three prominent Carter scholars whose paper topics explore the role of narrative in the Fifth String Quartet, argue for Carter’s engagement with Romantic as well as high-Modernist aesthetics, and suggest pedagogical approaches for introducing undergraduates to Carter's sometimes daunting music. Together, the papers illustrate the vitality and range of current Carter scholarship and highlight the aesthetic and technical challenges his music continues to pose.
Presentations of the Symposium
Narratology in the “Practice Session Model” of Elliott Carter’s Fifth String Quartet
Several authors, including David Schiff, John Link, John Aylward, and Laura Emmery, have analyzed Elliott Carter’s Fifth String Quartet from the vantage points of pitch and rhythmic design. In Carter’s program note, he says that the piece is about the rehearsal process and its embodiment of human interaction. This paper develops the concept by evaluating the musical figures that are foreshadowed by the interludes, which Carter suggested are rehearsal outtakes. Certain motives are reiterated and developed through slight variations, thus exemplifying the rehearsal process, and perhaps the editorial process, in detail. Link (2022) suggests that the interludes “unfold a process of gradual development.” Similarly, Roeder (2012) writes that “the interludes seem gradually to develop from discontinuous, tenuously related fragments into large-scale, formally shaped continuities.” All-interval tetrachords, formed from a repertory of stratified intervals, combine into octachords that are strategically deployed in a complex multi-tiered rhythmic scheme. Interactions within this model are suggestive of the character types that Carter has delineated in previous quartets, notably the Second.
The Publication of Elliott Carter’s Epigrams
Elliott Carter’s final composition, Epigrams, was essentially complete at the time of his death on November 5th, 2012. But he had not been able to review the proofs of the score as it was being prepared for publication and thus a number of questions were left to be resolved. The piece had been commissioned by the Aldeburgh festival and was scheduled to receive its world premiere in June 2013, so the evaluation of the score was a matter of some urgency. The process involved the consultation of autograph sketches, proofs, and other manuscripts, and the weighing of stylistic factors related both to Carter’s music in general and to the aesthetic of Epigrams in particular. It was guided by Carter’s manager Virgil Blackwell, his longtime proof-reader Allen Edwards, and his editor at Boosey & Hawkes Zizi Mueller, and it involved numerous others with close ties to Carter and his music, including, cellist Fred Sherry, engraver David Nadal, and myself. In this paper I describe the process we used to resolve the ambiguities that Carter left us, and to bring his final composition to publication.
Carter, Pedagogy, and the Undergraduate Theory Curriculum
Curricula that characterize Carter’s music as representative of one primary theoretical concept likely perpetuates a narrow understanding and appreciation of his music. A focus on a more experiential and phenomenological approach to his music offers an opportunity to situate Carter in an undergraduate curriculum as more than simply the composer most associated with tempo modulation.
This presentation therefore provides pedagogical applications of Carter’s music with a focus on the aural experience of his music, rather than technical attributes. In the first of three parts of the presentation, I orient Carter’s music in current undergraduate theory curricula. Using sample assignments, I show how a student’s assessment of Carter’s music—possibly for the first time—typically addresses technical, rather than aural features. Such approaches may offer only tangential relevance to how Carter’s music might “capture the attention” of undergraduate students, and how they can engage with it. The second part of the presentation focuses on alternative pedagogical approaches to his music. Using experiences from my own classroom instruction, I show how descriptive, gestural, and other aural identifiers offer a pathway toward a more immediate connection between students and Carter’s late music. Additionally, I show the practicality of these methods, which resonate with recent increases in visual representations of music in the public sphere (Chan-Hartley 2021). In the third part of the presentation, I offer three brief examples of undergraduate assignments, rubrics, and learning outcomes that use Carter’s music to illustrate these aurally focused approaches. One assignment is on aural training, another on writing and public engagement, and the third on composition.
These alternative pedagogical approaches offer ways to critically engage with Carter’s music far beyond tempo modulations. The presentation provides a way for Carter’s music to no longer be confined to undergraduate course units on 20th-century techniques, and rather within a larger context of experiencing music and finding its value. Such approaches provide both accessibility and relevance for the future educators, performers, and composers that populate most undergraduate music theory courses.
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