When I think about Elliott Carter, my main memory is, of course, about his music, but the earliest and most personal memory is of dining together. I remember clearly when Helen and Elliott came to my home to for dinner. I was excited to cook a traditional Japanese dinner for them and I will never forget how interested Helen and Elliott were in finding out about the ingredients I served. The first course I served was soft cooked abalone. Elliott remarked “how wonderfully tender and delicious this mushroom is.” I said, “this is abalone” and he looked even more happy as he said “this is delicious.” The main course was shabu shabu and with it I served a mushroom called enoki. Then he said, “the world is very interesting. There are so many different kinds of noodle.” I said, “what you ate right now was actually a mushroom” and Helen and Elliott laughed a lot and he said “there are so many ingredients I still don’t know.” They looked so happy I decided since then when cooking for them always to surprise them with very exotic and interesting ingredients. They were so interested in what was new and different. We spent many dinners together and Elliott told us so many things about music and about life which stays deeply in our minds.
Soon we began the tradition to celebrate his birthday with a dinner I would cook for him and close friends. Again, I always would try to create something which would surprise him and make him happy. This Fall, I was thinking of his 104th birthday dinner menu, but this time I could not serve it for him.
A great surprise for me was when we came home at the end of the summer to find the clarinet duet Elliott wrote for my husband, Charles Neidich, and me. He asked me to find a title for it and I thought of Hiyoku taken from the poem by the ancient Chinese poet Bai Ju Yi. I know now I was thinking of Helen and Elliott when I chose the title and I would like to end my remembrance with ending of the poem.
I am very sad I can no longer see you, but I am sure you and Helen have become Hiyoku. Thank you so much, Elliott.