The later music of Elliott Carter : a study in music theory and analysis
Any composer's writings form an important source for the critical study of his music: they must nevertheless be used with care, Carter's writings are considered as part of a tradition in American music. His musical development up to 1959 is briefly sketched, with particular reference to those elements which with hindsight can be seen to have been most significant in the evolution of a mature musical language - various experimental and non-western musical traditions, influences from other domains of art, and the philosophy of A. N. Vhitehead. In order to avoid the spectre of 'merely technical analysis' of atonal music, we need an analytical approach which can describe the way in which the characteristic properties of a musical surface (principally pitch register and duration; secondarily dynamic and timbre) act to create larger structures in time. Pitch-class Set Theory is rejected as embodying an unacceptable level of abstraction, and failing to account for the dynamic, developmental aspects of musical structure, Instead, a more flexible and sensitive method is developed, drawing on an alternative analytical tradition for twentieth-century music. Precedents and justifications for this method are sought in contemporary accounts of structure in general, and parallels and distinctions are drawn between the hierarchic structures of tonal music, atonal music, and language, This context-sensitive analytical approach is then applied to three of Carter's most characteristic works: the String Quartet no.2 (1959); the Double Concerto for Harpsichord, Piano, and Two Chamber Orchestras (1961); and the Concerto for Orchestra (1969).