John Schaefer appears in the following:
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
News of Elliott Carter's death yesterday is on the front page of today's New York Times. But three years ago, Elliott Carter had been all over the TV news. This was not because of a great new piece he'd written, or to celebrate his Pulitzer Prizes in Music (yes, that's right, prizes -- plural).
No, Elliott Carter's great, newsworthy achievement was living to be 100 years old. To be present at your own centennial concert at Carnegie Hall was a story too good to pass up.
A year later, speaking to Carter at the annual League Of Composers concert at Miller Theater, I found him to be somewhat bemused by the whole thing. But he laughed when I introduced the event as the start of "Elliott Carter, the next hundred years." A year after that, he regaled us with tales of the founding of the League: Aaron Copland and he had competing composers organizations, an idea the young Carter found "silly." Last year, in 2011, Carter's hearing was dramatically worse, so he came prepared with something he wanted to say about the particular piece being performed that night. "After that," he told me, "you can ask me your crazy questions." I always thought this was just an expression, but I swear, there was an actual twinkle in his eyes when he said this.
Elliott Carter wrote music that for most listeners is impenetrable. I don't mean this either as a putdown or as some kind of sniffy "Oh you wouldn't understand" defense of his work. It's a simple fact, one that Carter was fine with. His music was challenging, intellectual, and uncompromising. Yet he was a very funny guy.
Carter wasn't at this year's League Of Composers concert, but he was at the NY Philharmonic's Contact series, conductor Alan Gilbert's new music events, so I got to talk to him then. By this point he was wheelchair bound, but still sharp as a tack. So there, in the august Metropolitan Museum of Art, surrounded by the distinguished musicians of the New York Philharmonic, I decided it was time for one of my crazy questions.
"I am not the only person who thinks that your works since you turned 90 are the best works of your career," I said. This, by the way, was true; I'd said it backstage to clarinetist Virgil Blackwell, Carter's assistant and the dedicatee of a recent Carter piece, and Blackwell had immediately agreed. "What have you been doing different since then?" Without missing a beat, he answered, "Well, I spent 90 years learning how to be Elliott Carter. I guess I've just gotten good at it."
Not bad for a 103-year-old.
Carter's recent music is so finely distilled, without a single extraneous note, that it becomes somewhat easier to hear the lyricism that has been lurking under the thorny exterior of his music. But that doesn't mean you should ignore the works of his youth, which in Carter's case means his mid 70s. The work that converted me was the piano piece "Night Fantasies," from the early 1980s.
I was not supposed to like Elliott Carter. He represented the old school, the dissonant, academic style that my heroes, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, were fighting against. But "Night Fantasies" is a brilliant depiction of an unsettled night, full of fleeting dreamlike images, spiky but atmospheric.
Tonight, I will be glued to the television, watching the election returns roll in. But I will make some time late this afternoon, maybe after the sun goes down, to listen to "Night Fantasies" again. If you're curious about this major figure in American music, maybe you should too.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Join Soundcheck host John Schaefer this Thursday from 9-11 p.m. ET for our special broadcast, "After The Storm: You Pick The Music."
Thursday, October 25, 2012
On Thursday Q2 Music presented a live audio stream of the season-opening concert of the Brooklyn Philharmonic with world premieres from Ted Hearne, Kendall Williams, Matt Marks and more.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
This October, Q2 Music partnered with WNYC's New Sounds Live to present the eclectic composer-pianist Vijay Iyer in an exciting double billing with composer's Missy Mazzoli's all-female band, Victoire. Hear the show at 8 pm tonight on New York Now.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
On Tuesday, October 23 at 8 pm, ET, Q2 Music present a live audio webcast of the dynamic, 12-piece Afrobeat ensemble Antibalas and the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ted Leo interpreting the music of Hugh Masekela.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
The telephone may no longer be our primary means of communication, but it remains a favorite topic for songwriters.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
The MacArthur Fellowships, or "Genius Awards," offer recognition -- and a pile of cash. If you were to win, what would you do with the money?
Monday, September 24, 2012
The opera Einstein On The Beach hit the stage for only the fourth time in its history. John Schaefer wonders if there will ever be a fifth.
Monday, September 24, 2012
John Schaefer recalls a vain attempt to keep a wedding music staple out of his reception.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Patti Smith's new album is named after a character from the famed Russian novel, The Master And Margarita, putting her in some surprising musical company. Hear five songs inspired by characters from the book.
Monday, September 17, 2012
We’ve spent the summer months in the Soundcheck Workshop. Now it’s time to show you what we’ve been building.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
In this episode of Soundcheck from 2002, the composer discusses some of the odd jobs he has held throughout his career, the development of the new music scene in New York, and how he defined success for himself along the way.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Today’s archival Glass interviews feature an appearance on The Leonard Lopate Show from 2002 about Koyaanisqatsi and an episode of New Sounds from 1985, in which the composer talks about scoring Mishima.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
What would Philip Glass need to survive in complete isolation? Find out on this episode of Survival Kit from 2003. The composer opens up about what recordings he would bring along, including some unexpected selections.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
As part of Music of Constant Change, Q2 Music spotlights archival episodes of WNYC's New Sounds by streaming interviews between host John Schaefer and many of Glass's most important colleagues, including Ravi Shankar and director Robert Wilson.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Philip Glass has been an extremely prolific composer, and has had long associations with two major record labels. Here are 10 recordings that will serve as an introduction to his hugely influential music.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
If you like Korea, horses, and pretty girls, we've got a video for you. If you don't, well, we've still got a video for you: Psy is a chunky but loose-limbed singer/rapper/dancer from Seoul, and his song "Gangnam Style" has been a juggernaut in the world of K-Pop, as the Korean pop music scene is known, for much of the summer.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The English electronic artist Squarepusher stands out from a crowded field, both for his innovative music and his distinctive look. The musician has created a visually captivating lighting rig that works perfectly with his music.