NEW YORK (AP) – Pulitzer Prize winner, Elliott Carter, died at the age of 103 on Monday. The late classical composer left behind a comprehensive collection of rhythmically complex works and written essays about modern music.
Elliott Carter’s publishing house, Boosey & Hawkes, announced on Monday that the famous composer passed away of natural causes at 103. They described him as “an iconic American composer” due to the numerous works he created during his life.
The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes was very dedicated to his work. He declared in a past interview that he wants to create complex music which stimulates listeners’ attention. People need to concentrate all their attention when listening to his music; otherwise, they will not be able to grasp its full meaning. According to Carter, the theatrical effect is not intrinsic; it is the listener who interprets the sounds and gives meaning to them.
Elliott’s declaration explains why he chose to use various instruments in his compositions and create chaotic interactions between them. Their complex sounds give birth to powerful dramas that listeners have to decipher, but the music sheets are most of the times very difficult to learn. He later on, stated that the difficulty arises from the fact that he wanted to give each musician his own individuality in the context of a harmonized orchestra. “This seems to me a very dramatic thing in a democratic society,” he said.
Similar to other modern classical composers, Elliott Carter was little known to the general public. His works were usually played among small circles of critics and musicians in New York City. He often felt he was more appreciated in Europe where music “is not purely entertainment, but part of the culture”. Even so, the late composer didn’t feel the need to be popular because he understood that the popular opinion is usually manipulated by various factors and, thus, “popularity is a meaningless matter”.
Carter won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1960 due to his Second String Quartet. More than 10 years later, in 1973, he received another Pulitzer award for his Third String Quartet. He is survived by his son and grandson.