Sun Apr 01, 2007 6:53 pm From the Disassociated Press NEW YORK --- American composer Elliott Carter, an exemplar of the atonalist style of modernism and according to admirers the greatest living practitioner of his craft, apologized to music lovers around the world today for what he called "a half century of wasted time."
"What was I thinking?" the venerable Mr. Carter, 99, said at his home in Manhattan. "Nobody likes this stuff. Why have I wasted my life?" Carter said he "went wrong" back in the 1940s and spent the next 60 years pursuing the musical dead-end of atonality. In the past seven decades, he has produced five string quartets...
, a half dozen song cycles, works for orchestra, solo concertos and innumerable chamber works for various combinations of instruments --- all in an advanced, complex style he now dismisses as "noise."
Despite consistent encouragement of many mainstream musicians such as Boston Symphony Music Director James Levine, for Chicago Symphony conductor Daniel Barenboim, and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Carter said his many admirers were "delusional."
"The critics who said they were just congratulating themselves for being smarter than everybody else were right all along," he said. "We should all go back and get our heads on straight." Carter said he blamed his late wife, Helen, for turning him into an unrepentant modernist. "She liked this stuff, and I could never say no to her," he said. Mrs. Carter died in 2003 at age 95.
Since then, Carter said, he has been reevaluating his aesthetic. "I'd like to write something pretty for a change --- maybe something based on an Irish folk tune," he said. He was uncertain whether he would withdraw his substantial catalogue from the repertoire, though one alternative would be to revise his works, ending each with a tonic triad, he said.
"I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders," Carter said. "From now on, I promise to be good."
(Thanks, David Canfield.)