Elliott Carter: 1908-2012

American composer Elliott Carter died yesterday after a very long life and an excellent career. He died a few weeks before his 104th birthday, composing to the end. His 100th birthday was celebrated by many performances of his pieces, new and old. He had several premieres of new pieces this year and he finished his last composition in August. His music can be challenging for listeners, but often the best music is.

My first exposure to Carter was in college; we sang his setting of Emily Dickinson's poem, "Heart Not So Heavy As Mine." I think it was the most difficult piece I had learned to that point, but it started my interest in "new music." It seems a very appropriate way to remember him.

There are excellent obituaries at the New York Times and NPRs Deceptive Cadence.

Adventures in Teaching: Halloween

Libby Larsen, composer

This year for Halloween I decided that since I was teaching all afternoon, and students would likely come to lessons in their costumes, I would dress up, too. I hemmed and hawed about what to be, but anything too elaborate like a character from an opera seemed too difficult to maintain while teaching. I settled on composer Libby Larsen because I love her music and I look a bit like her if I change the part in my hair.

I thought Larsen would be a great choice, since most young musicians think of composers as old (or dead) European men like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. She certainly goes against that type as a living American woman. Larsen has an excellent section for kids on her website. She includes a letter to students, an interview, and a section on composing music. From the interview:

What advice would you give to a person who wants to compose for a living?

Listen to all kinds of music, as much as you can get your hands on. Make friends with creative and artistic people. Learn to read and notate music very, very well. Listen some more. Work at your music every day. Study the music of other composers. Write everything down. Talk to musicians and music teachers as much as you can. Perform: sing, play instruments, make up your own instruments, and of course, dance!

Read the rest at Libby Larsen's For Kids page.