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Re: Elliot Carter on Ives

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  • quartodeciman
    Carter apologized in his own way many times in writing after his 1939 negative reviews of the Concord. Since the unoriginal theme aspect is pretty strong in
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 25, 2003
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      Carter apologized in his own way many times in writing after his
      1939 negative reviews of the Concord. Since the "unoriginal" theme
      aspect is pretty strong in that work, he surprised everyone who knew
      him with his harsh statements. Carter had undergone personal
      transformation since leaving the company of Ives in the 1920s. At
      Harvard he studied with Piston, a cooler and solidly academically-
      centered teacher. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in France, who
      was an avid old music and Stravinsky devotee. Carter acquired a new
      esthetic of music. He returned to the US in the middle of the great
      depression, so he sought and obtained work as a music reviewer. He
      was easily the best informed reviewer of the Concord Sonata, when
      the whole work was premiered by Kirkpatrick.

      Yes, Carter had changed. He liked the cool efficiency of
      Stravinsky's work and that became his main style as a composer by
      1940. In the mid-1940s, Carter began to have regrets about his
      treatment of the composer who had encouraged him early. He
      volunteered to help repair some of the Ives instrumental works
      and get them into performance shape. But he found the work
      daunting. Ives was a habitual reviser of his work and he had
      something of a chaos of manuscripts and contradictory replacement
      pages. Carter had to give up this work after a while and get on
      with his own composing. By the late 1940s and early 1950s Carter
      was on his way to being a creator of very complex and demanding (on
      players and listeners alike) major compositions. Cool, neo-
      classical Carter was left behind.
    • Scott Mortensen
      Carter also said some not-so-complimentary things about Ives doctoring his work--adding dissonant elements--long after the work had been originally composed.
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 26, 2003
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        Carter also said some not-so-complimentary things about
        Ives "doctoring" his work--adding dissonant elements--long after the
        work had been originally composed. Carter's implication was that
        Ives wasn't as much of a pioneer/forerunner as people presumed.
        Carter claimed that Ives was just doing to it to make himself appear
        to be more modern than he actually was.

        More recently, Maynard Solomon took up this idea and wrote an article
        about it. Several folks have written rebuttals, which are largely
        convincing to me. But I haven't delved too deeply into the
        controversy. The whole dating issue will probably never be completely
        resolved when it comes to Ives' works.

        Ultimately, I guess it doesn't matter to me. If we concentrate
        on "who came first"--or focus on aspects of Ives' style or method,
        then the dating issue is relevant, I guess, "for the record," for
        historical reasons. But if we listen to the music, as music, it is
        clear that Ives is a composer who wrote great, richly inventive, and
        powerful music. All of his methods--what Ives call the "manner" of a
        composition--are secondary to the the impact--the "substance" of his
        works.

        Scott




        --- In charlesives@yahoogroups.com, "quartodeciman"
        <quartodeciman@h...> wrote:
        > Carter apologized in his own way many times in writing after his
        > 1939 negative reviews of the Concord. Since the "unoriginal" theme
        > aspect is pretty strong in that work, he surprised everyone who
        knew
        > him with his harsh statements. Carter had undergone personal
        > transformation since leaving the company of Ives in the 1920s. At
        > Harvard he studied with Piston, a cooler and solidly academically-
        > centered teacher. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in France, who
        > was an avid old music and Stravinsky devotee. Carter acquired a
        new
        > esthetic of music. He returned to the US in the middle of the
        great
        > depression, so he sought and obtained work as a music reviewer. He
        > was easily the best informed reviewer of the Concord Sonata, when
        > the whole work was premiered by Kirkpatrick.
        >
        > Yes, Carter had changed. He liked the cool efficiency of
        > Stravinsky's work and that became his main style as a composer by
        > 1940. In the mid-1940s, Carter began to have regrets about his
        > treatment of the composer who had encouraged him early. He
        > volunteered to help repair some of the Ives instrumental works
        > and get them into performance shape. But he found the work
        > daunting. Ives was a habitual reviser of his work and he had
        > something of a chaos of manuscripts and contradictory replacement
        > pages. Carter had to give up this work after a while and get on
        > with his own composing. By the late 1940s and early 1950s Carter
        > was on his way to being a creator of very complex and demanding (on
        > players and listeners alike) major compositions. Cool, neo-
        > classical Carter was left behind.
      • mhberest
        Forgive me for responding to this so late after the original post. No, it doesn t matter when the dissonances were added, but I believe Carter exaggerated
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 11, 2005
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          Forgive me for responding to this so late after the original post.

          No, it doesn't matter when the dissonances were added, but I believe
          Carter exaggerated Ives's revisions of "Three Places."

          I think Ives represents an uncomfortable notion for composers in the
          generation or two after him. Gottschalk was too little known and
          not revolutionary enough to become the "Washington, Jefferson, and
          Lincoln of American Music," as Leonard Bernstein once flamboyantly
          described Ives. This puts Ives as the earliest American composer to
          follow along the lines of Stravinsky and Schoenberg in creating a
          totally new kind of classical music, and music relative to his
          country.

          Ives, however, wasn't really discovered until Copland was fairly
          well established if not yet the "dean of American composers."
          Copland and others, I would guess, were a bit aghast at Ives's
          arrival. They initially viewed him as a kind of musical Grandma
          Moses, writing music without really knowing how to, but I think
          there was at least a subconscious understanding that Ives's music
          would soon blow their anemic, watered-down Stravinskian pieces out
          of the water.

          This, I think, charged up Carter's appraisal of Ives at the time of
          the Concord Sonata, and years after Ives had died. But I remember
          one Carter quote on Ives that particularly irked me. He talked
          about how he listened to "The Fourth of July" to figure out what
          _not_ to do in writing a polyrhythmic work. He made some comment
          that the many lines of "Fourth" only produced a "blur" of sound,
          rather than a clear texture.

          I think if you had to pick _anyone_ who was a true influence on
          Ives, it would not be a composer, but the poet Walt Whitman,
          something I am far from the first person to ever aver. It is still
          an apt statement, simply because Ives picked up on Whitman's idea of
          turning an art form inside out to reflect something that had never
          existed before: sprawling, complex, often incomprehensibly chaotic
          America.

          Two quotes that come to mind are Ives's ("you can't do a fugue in C
          to describe a football game") and Strauss's on his opera, Electra
          ("when you're writing about a boy killing his mother, you don't
          write a violin concerto.") The climax of "July" perfectly expresses
          the euphoria that holiday provokes. Make it any "easier to
          understand" and you ruin it.

          "July" also does not have to be dissed in order to allege that its
          rhythmic construction may not have been the only option for
          heterophony. In this same light, Mozart's approach to the symphony
          doesn't mean no one can compose a symphony in a different way. Yet
          Mozart is still considered a genius, and despite comments like
          Carter's, Ives is, too.


          --- In charlesives@yahoogroups.com, "Scott Mortensen"
          <Scottkmort@h...> wrote:
          > Carter also said some not-so-complimentary things about
          > Ives "doctoring" his work--adding dissonant elements--long after
          the
          > work had been originally composed. Carter's implication was that
          > Ives wasn't as much of a pioneer/forerunner as people presumed.
          > Carter claimed that Ives was just doing to it to make himself
          appear
          > to be more modern than he actually was.
          >
          > More recently, Maynard Solomon took up this idea and wrote an
          article
          > about it. Several folks have written rebuttals, which are largely
          > convincing to me. But I haven't delved too deeply into the
          > controversy. The whole dating issue will probably never be
          completely
          > resolved when it comes to Ives' works.
          >
          > Ultimately, I guess it doesn't matter to me. If we concentrate
          > on "who came first"--or focus on aspects of Ives' style or method,
          > then the dating issue is relevant, I guess, "for the record," for
          > historical reasons. But if we listen to the music, as music, it is
          > clear that Ives is a composer who wrote great, richly inventive,
          and
          > powerful music. All of his methods--what Ives call the "manner"
          of a
          > composition--are secondary to the the impact--the "substance" of
          his
          > works.
          >
          > Scott
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > --- In charlesives@yahoogroups.com, "quartodeciman"
          > <quartodeciman@h...> wrote:
          > > Carter apologized in his own way many times in writing after his
          > > 1939 negative reviews of the Concord. Since the "unoriginal"
          theme
          > > aspect is pretty strong in that work, he surprised everyone who
          > knew
          > > him with his harsh statements. Carter had undergone personal
          > > transformation since leaving the company of Ives in the 1920s.
          At
          > > Harvard he studied with Piston, a cooler and solidly
          academically-
          > > centered teacher. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in France,
          who
          > > was an avid old music and Stravinsky devotee. Carter acquired a
          > new
          > > esthetic of music. He returned to the US in the middle of the
          > great
          > > depression, so he sought and obtained work as a music reviewer.
          He
          > > was easily the best informed reviewer of the Concord Sonata,
          when
          > > the whole work was premiered by Kirkpatrick.
          > >
          > > Yes, Carter had changed. He liked the cool efficiency of
          > > Stravinsky's work and that became his main style as a composer
          by
          > > 1940. In the mid-1940s, Carter began to have regrets about his
          > > treatment of the composer who had encouraged him early. He
          > > volunteered to help repair some of the Ives instrumental works
          > > and get them into performance shape. But he found the work
          > > daunting. Ives was a habitual reviser of his work and he had
          > > something of a chaos of manuscripts and contradictory
          replacement
          > > pages. Carter had to give up this work after a while and get on
          > > with his own composing. By the late 1940s and early 1950s
          Carter
          > > was on his way to being a creator of very complex and demanding
          (on
          > > players and listeners alike) major compositions. Cool, neo-
          > > classical Carter was left behind.
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