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« Movie Moments - Telefon (1977) | Main | Academic Graffiti »

June 28, 2008


I'm sorry. I'm confused. Will you or will you not be there?

Yes--I'll certainly be there, meeting with the composer-fellows and at the concert of their settings, July 29. I'll have more to say here about how my meetings with the composers progress.

Congratulations on the honor.
I've tried listening to Eliot Carter but find I don't respond to his music. Anything I should listen for?


Dear Molly--Thank you. I suggest starting with early Carter. The gorgeous Cello Sonata and the String Quartet No. 1 are very beautiful and very moving (I think the long slow part of the First Quartet is one of the most haunting, heartstopping, mysterious pieces of music I know--Carter said it was inspired by being out in the desert). There are also the even earlier and very traditionally melodic choral settings of Robert Frost ("The Rose Family," "Dust of Snow") and Emily Dickinson ("Musicians Wrestle Everywhere," "Heart Not So Heavy As Mine"). If you're captivated by these, then there's a real chance you might enjoy his later work, though that can be more "difficult." One way to think about Carter's music is to regard the different instruments as characters in a play, having a love scene or an argument (it's an approach Carter himself acknowledges). Some of his very recent pieces are amazingly lively, colorful, even youthful. His cycle of Italian poems, "Tempo e tempi" ("Time and tempos"), is very appealing. For me his music is full of feeling, insinuation, suspense, drama, even when it's not tuneful in the way most of us are used to. Please let me know if any of this advice is helpful.

I am so thrilled for you that your work is now complimented with music. I can see that you are a classical music critic but have you tried mixing jazz with your poetry as well? I have found great fun in this myself with my jazz pianist husband on many performances. Betsy

Thank you for the explanation. I just listened to a piece by Charles Wuorinen called "Ashberyana." I wonder what you think of the piece and of the composer. It starts with a solo trombone, dramatically, and the purely instrumental parts (keyboard and strings as well as brass) are interesting in the way that excellent movie music is. But the words as sung just sound like noise. Anyway I wonder whether you have an opinion.

Hi again--I don't know Wuorinen's Ashbery piece, but your description sounds pretty close to my own responses to other things by him I've heard. Did you read that he was commissioned to do an opera based on Brokeback Mountain? Yippy-ka-yo oy-vey!

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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