Faculty Publications

Elliott Carter’s Tonal Practice in The Rose Family

Document Type

Book Chapter

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Perspectives on American Music Since 1950

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Music is an aural art form. To write about something that is meant to be heard may seem superfluous. But when a certain type of music is misunderstood or apprehended only superficially, then a point may be made that such music requires a written introduction to its secrets. One might argue this point by maintaining that any piece with secrets not self-evident upon its hearing is not worth such an introduction. This writer would counter that a music’s secrets are only self-evident if the listener is able to listen without prejudice to that music being heard. In my experience, it is too often the case that music of the type explored herein is rarely heard accurately; its effortlessness and seeming simplicity belie its architectural intricacies. It is my hope that this essay will encourage the listener to hear this music for what it is and not for what or whose work it “sounds like” or “doesn’t sound like.” To this end, the reader is encouraged to refer to recordings and the score of this work frequently in the course of the analysis given in this essay. After all, analysis may be interesting and revealing, but it is not an art form; without hearing the music itself, it runs the risk of being ridiculous. The tendency for each generation in America to wipe away the memory of the previous one, and the general neglect of our own recent past … [is] so characteristic of American treatment of the work of its important artists. The long neglect of these American composers has resulted in a lack of information about them, an unfamiliarity with their ideas and music, and often a falsification of facts, so that it is now important to reconsider our attitude about them in the light of actual information in order to understand our own musical situation more clearly….1.


School of Music

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