Learning from Elliott, a personal timeline
1973: Sitting in my freshman dorm room with the radio on. A string quartet unlike any music I had heard before – such a sophisticated conversation. I would later learn Elliott had characterized it as “interactions, combinations, cooperations, and oppositions.” I missed my theory class waiting to find out that this was his String Quartet No. 2 and also confirmed once and for all that there were far better ways to learn about music than in a classroom. … Ten years later, trying to come to terms with writing about Carter’s music – a program note on Symphony No. 1 was far easier to write than the one on Variations for Orchestra, but with more than a little help from David Schiff the logic of the latter score was far more rewarding to crack. … Listening and writing, without a score, for a review of the world premiere of Triple Duo – “pairs they are, partners rather than antagonists, with rhythms that are most often parallel, otherwise composite or complementary… contrasts came from these rhythmical oppositions, also from variety of register and constantly modified groupings of timbre. It was consistently engrossing listening….” … 1986: Becoming the guardian of Elliott’s formidably distinguished catalogue of music published by Associated Music Publishers and being terribly intimidated by both the responsibility and the interaction. “Think of him as a kindly grandfather,” advised the ever-wise Janis Susskind, and so I did. … 1988: Attending many 80 th-birthday celebratory concerts while pregnant. No one will ever convince me that my son’s intellect and capacity for elucidating complex thoughts did not begin with what he heard in utero. … Mid-1990s: An invitation to join the board of the Amphion Foundation, and with it cherished opportunities to witness Elliott and Helen’s quiet generosity. So often we heard: “I don’t begin to understand Composer X’s aesthetic, but people whom I respect do, so let’s award a grant.”… 2008: Singing Happy 100th Birthday for the first time. … 2012: watching Elliott having aged ever so gracefully, ever so creative, ever so curious, knowing when it was finally time to go. Surrounded and embraced by Virgil, Fred, Carol, Jim, and many other dearly devoted caregivers, friends, and musical colleagues. Thank you, Elliott, for sharing your utterly sui generis life with us.