[rumori] Elliot Carter on Charles Ives

Jon Leidecker [rumori] Elliot Carter on Charles Ives
Sat, 26 Sep 1998 16:29:44 -0700 (00906852584,

Hey Steev and compatriots.

I mentioned this quote in passing the other night, Steev suggested
posting, har har, har.

>From "Charles Ives Remembered", editor Vivian Perlis, the last paragraph
of Elliot Carter's interview (June 20, 1969):

As for myself, I have always been fascinated by the polyrhymic aspect of
Ives' music, as well as it's multiple layering, but perplexed at times by
the disturbing lack of musical and stylistic continuity, caused largely
by the constant use of musical quotations in many works. To me a
composer develops his own personal language, suitable to express his
field of experience and thought. When he borrows music from another
style and thought from his own, he is admitting that he did not really
experience what he is presenting but has to borrow from someone else who
did. In the case of early music, like masses on <italic>L'homme arme</italic>, or cantatas on Lutheran chorales, the original melody has a deep religious meaning so that, understandably, a very devout composer
feels he needs to borrow it as a basis, since its expression transcends
his own religious experience. These old tunes both united the composer
to his listener and were very close in style to the music for which they
formed a basis. At the other extreme of borrowing are the endless
variations on popular or famous tunes in the ninteenth century, a very
few of which produced great music, not really because of the tunes. Then
there were the entertaining potpourris or medleys of partriotic airs,
sometimes arranged humorously for band concerts; these have no artistic
pretentions and reveal little fundamental musical imagination. Some of
Ives' works belong close to this latter category, except for his daring
"take-off" technique that often makes these pieces resemble "realistic" sound pictures of festive scenes. It is, to me, disappointing that Ives
too frequently was unable or unwilling to invent musical material that
expressed his own vision authentically, instead of relying on the
material of others. But what is striking and remarkable in his work,
like much of the <italic>First</italic> and <italic>Second Piano Sonatas</italic>, is an extraordinary musical achievement.

Hella interesting remarks in there. Signser the times and changing
attitudes; authority of the author still had a certain, plausible form
of power that has shifted quite a bit in definition even over the past
thirty years, although Mr. Old-Guard Carter's position was already well
on it's way to eroding by the time he rasped his way through the above

Nice three-step continuum he puts down on the appropriation scale, from
religious to folk to political anthems.

Nice also how he carefully seperates the "take-off" technique as something of interest and accomplishment, as if it were independent from
the inauthentic technique of quoting; the "take-off" is impossible without the quote. I wonder if Carter recycled his plastics. Duh, duh
duh. Duh.