Monday, December 24, 2007

Bob Priest's letter regarding Elliott Carter in New York Times

Composer Bob Priest has been on a letter-writing spree lately. His letter about Elliott Carter's music appeared on page 40 of Sunday's New York Times Arts and Leisure section. BP has allowed me to reprint it here:

From: Bob Priest
Date: December 10, 2007 4:01:27 PM PST
Subject: Elliott Carter

I am thrilled that Elliott Carter is still alive and continuing to compose. I have admired and learned much from his scores over the past 35 years. His craft is impeccable. Unfortunately, I generally can't bear listening to his actual music. I have struggled mightily in the past with this dichotomy. Now, I've made peace with the fact that Carter's music "speaks" to me through my mind - not my ear.

Bob Priest
Portland, Oregon


Joe said...

A thoughtful and respectful letter that raises an important point: One may not like Mr. Carter's music despite years of grappling with it. Yes, it's tough. The only response I can make is that my reactions are different. I'm not trained well enough as a musician to judge the craftsmanship of Mr. Carter's scores. I simply dig the sound. Carter affords the most powerful aural experiences of any composer I can think of. The Piano Concerto is pure tragedy. The Concerto for Orchestra kicks neoromantic butt. The new Horn Concerto is a delight. I'm too thrilled Mr. Carter is still writing, but for purely selfish and musical reasons.

Joe said...

A thoughtful letter, and it makes the needed if obvious point that Mr. Carter's music can indeed be difficult to listen to. But another equally important point is that Carter has admirers who dig his music as pure sound. I know, since I'm one of them. Unlike Bob, I'm not qualified to judge the craftsmanship of the scores. But, also unlike Bob, I have come to love Carter's music simply by listening to it. I find something powerful, witty or charming in every one of his mature pieces. And since he is still with us and still productive, I at least can be grateful I have more power, wit and charm to look forward to.

James Bash said...

I haven't gotten Bob to register properly, but he has sent me a response that he would like me to publish. It follows straightaway:

An excellent response. Being honestly moved by a composer's actual music is the ultimate compliment. Actually, I'd love to have a close-up & personal experience with Carter's 3rd Quartet some day. Sitting a few bow hairs away from the Arditti Quartet slammin' through that monster MIGHT win me over to feeling this work that I've long admired for its supreme technical virtuosity.

Bob Priest

Joe said...

The Third Quartet is an amazing piece to hear live. I once sat in the second row during a performance in Washington DC by the Juilliard Quartet, so close that I could see the strings vibrating on Joel Kronick's cello. And I was jazzed for days afterward. Someone I knew was in the audience and said something disparaging about the piece during intermision, but I was in far too good a mood to argue. I also overheard someone in the lobby say something like, "I don't generally are for twelve-tone music, but I liked that."