Elliott Cook Carter

From Elliott’s composition “lessons” at Yale – 1961-1962 – emerged four young composers who went on to make a life in contemporary music: Joel Chadabe, Tom Johnson, David Barron and myself. Out of a class of 6 or 7 students. This seems to be a remarkably high percentage and at this distance I would like to attribute all our steadfastness and continuity to Elliott… he considered all of us “professionals” from day one and his aim was to make sure we made it into the profession – the elite, elusive guild which we have spent our lives accommodating to.

Elliott and Helen’s invitation to join them in Berlin in first year of the Ford Foundation’s DAAD program in 1963 was a determining point in my life: the handshake with Stravinsky there, was far less important to me than my beginning friendship with Frederic Rzewski, Yuji Takahashi, and Louie Andriessen. Above all this experience led to a lifelong friendship with Elliott and Helen and served not only as a periodic tea time appointment in NYC but as a form of extended family where we all traded stories about struggling with the 12 notes and the invisible international forces that thought to control them.

In 1983-4 I embarked on an adventurous project – Maritime Rites – sponsored by the NPR (National Public Radio) and co-produced by Melissa Gould. I planned to record every major maritime signal (bells, buoys, fog horns etc.) on the eastern seaboard of the USA. I also invited improvising performers to contribute “any sounds” to my piece – I invited Elliott and John Cage to contribute words only – and on my suggestion, just 5 monosyllabic words – which I integrated into my various soundscapes.

Elliott, in his impeccably devilish way, and gently poking fun at my own title, came up with the words: “write, right, right, rite, wright.” We know that during WWII Elliott was working for the US Government to code and encode languages… a skill he has since applied (directly and indirectly) to his own music with incredible imagination and sonic results.

My contribution here, in acknowledgement of his many gifts to me is to present a randomized smidgeon of anagrams of the 10,000 generated in a few seconds by www.arrak.fi/ anagram machine using the words: ELLIOTT COOK CARTER

Elliott surely would have delighted in the results hidden in his name, which unmask even more poetry around his inspiring figure.