An Interview with Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter

An Interview with Elliott Carter

The American composer Elliott Carter died a month shy of his 104th birthday on 5 November. We came across this recent interview with him by James Tarmy, in which he reveals his thoughts on longevity, writing music for the future and when Stravinsky met Sinatra. Below are a few excerpts, but read the full thing here.

You talk about longevity, but at this point in my life I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in the future. After World War I, I studied in Munich. I met lots of people and we used to swear that we would never fight in a war again. I go away, and there’s Hitler. I never would have suspected that those intelligent Germans would have fallen for that — it would have never occurred to me. So who knows what’s going to happen. Mitt Romney may even get into office. God knows what would come out of that.

Musical training leads you to the old-fashioned idea that the composer is writing for the future, and that he’ll be recognized like Brahms was. Well, that’s false. Sometimes I think that somebody will understand my music 10 years from now, but I’m not sure.

I took Igor Stravinsky and his wife [to the restaurant La Cote Basque]. We got a table in the middle of the room, speaking French, and a man came in, and said in rather good French, ‘will the maestro please give me an autograph?’ Stravinsky said ‘Certainly not.’ His wife did a great deal of talking in Russian and finally he agreed, but took forever to write out his name. The man waited and waited and by this point the whole room was watching. Finally Stravinsky was done and the man thanked him and walked away. We asked Stravinsky if he knew who he was and he said, ‘Certainly, I see him on television all the time.’ The man was Frank Sinatra.

Published on 6 November 2012

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