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Carter, Elliott (Cook Jr.)

music univ american received

outstanding American composer and teacher; b. N.Y., Dec. 11, 1908. After graduating from the Horace Mann H.S. in N.Y. in 1926, Carter entered Harvard Univ., majoring in literature and languages; at the same time, he studied piano at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. In 1930 he devoted himself exclusively to music at Harvard, taking up harmony and counterpoint with Piston, and orchestration with Hill, and also attended in 1932 a course given there by Hoist. He obtained his M.A. in 1932, and then went to Paris, where he studied with Boulanger and at the École Normale de Musique, receiving a licence de contrepoint) in the interim, he learned mathematics, Latin, and Greek. In 1935 he returned to the U.S. He was music director of the Ballet Caravan (1937–39) and gave courses in music and also in mathematics, physics, and classical Greek at St. John’s Coll. in Annapolis, Md. (1940–44). He then taught at the Peabody Cons, of Music in Baltimore (1946–48). He was on the faculty of Columbia Univ. (1948–50), Queens Coll. of the City Univ. of N.Y. (1955–56), and Yale Univ. (1960–62). In 1963 he was composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, and in 1964 held a similar post in West Berlin. In 1967–68 he was a prof .-at-large at Cornell Univ. He held Guggenheim fellowships in 1945–46 and 1950–51, and the American Prix de Rome in 1953. In 1965 he received the Creative Arts Award from Brandéis Univ. In 1953 he received first prize in the Concours International de Composition pour Quatuor a Cordes in Liège for first String Quartet; in 1960 he received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his second String Quartet, which also received the N.Y. Music Critics Circle Award and was further elected as the most important work of the year by the International Rostrum of Composers. He again won the Pulitzer Prize in Music, for his third String Quartet, in 1973. In 1985 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan. In 1987 he was made a Dommandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts des Lettres of France. In 1991 he was named a Commendatore of the Order of Merit in Italy. Carter’s reputation as one of the most important American composers grew with each new work he produced; Stravinsky was quoted as saying that Carter’s Double Concerto was the first true American masterpiece. The evolution of Carter’s compositional style is marked by his constant preoccupation with taxonomic considerations. His early works are set in a neo-Classical style. He later absorbed the Schoenbergian method of composition with 12 equal tones. Finally he developed a system of serial organization in which all parameters, including intervals, metric divisions, rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, and instrumental timbres, become parts of the total conception of each individual work. In this connection, he introduced the term “metric modulation,” in which secondary rhythms in a polyrhythmic section assume dominance expressed in constantly changing meters, often in such unusual time signatures as 10/16, 21/8, etc. Furthermore, he assigns to each participating instrument in a polyphonic work a special interval, a distinctive rhythmic figure, and a selective register, so that the individuality of each part is clearly outlined, a distribution which is often reinforced by placing the players at a specified distance from one another. E. and K. Stone ed. The Writings of E . C: An American Composer Looks at Modern Music (N.Y., 1977). J. Bernard ed. E. G: Collected Essays and Lectures, 1937–1995 (Rochester, N.Y., 1997).

Carter Family, The [next] [back] Carter, Betty (originally, Tones, Lillie Mae; aka Lorene Carter and “Bette Bebop”)

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