Thursday, August 15, 2013

Carter is Still Dead....

...and the Tumblr Fuck Yeah! Elliott Carter gives Daniel Asia's remarks about Carter the shredding they so richly deserve.

13 comments:

calimac said...

You ought to be embarrassed to be referring to this.

A truckload of flailing abuse can't cover up that Asia's observations are soberly phrased, insightful, and penetrating.

Asia is also a well-known, talented, and respected composer, so ad hominem attacks on his qualifications to speak on composition are particularly ludicrous.

Tom DePlonty said...

What exactly is so insightful and penetrating about Asia's comments? He talks about what he doesn't like about several pieces of music (and he's extremely condescending even toward those pieces he claims to like). They're nothing but opinions, and there are no arguments of substance there to persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with them.

Incidentally, I say this as someone who really doesn't care for much of Carter's music. Asia's already managed to lose me with his comments on the music we actually do both kind of like. The Piano Sonata "works"? Good grief, it's one of the monuments of the literature. Eight Etudes and a Fantasy are "slight"? Yeah, sure, you go ahead and try to write it, Daniel.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I am not the slightest bit ashamed. Exaggeration for effect is a time-honored writing technique.

Asia doesn't like Carter's music (and I have no beef with that) but it's also apparent that he doesn't understand it. He wrote a similarly uninformed essay about Cage within the last year or so.

Here is another critique of Asia's comments on Carter.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh, and - I'm actually kind of shocked by Asia's comments on Eight Etudes and a Fantasy, which is witty, charming, and accessible. Asia's assessment of the piece would make suspicious of everything else he says even if I weren't a Carter fan.

calimac said...

Opinions may be insightful and penetrating. Having them criticized merely on the grounds that they're opinions would eviscerate the entire profession of criticisms.

Comic exaggeration may be an honorable literary effect. Rampant obscene abuse is not. Ad hominem attacks against the qualifications of a qualified person are not. It would also help if the response had even remotely any content, instead of just abuse.

Suspicion that you like this only because you agree with its opinion, because you never write like this yourself. Your own satirical remarks are pointed and apt. This one is unworthy.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I would find it funny even if I didn't agree!

If you're a composer writing about another composer, you'd better do better than Daniel Asia does. He's speaking awkwardly in large generalities. There's plenty to be said about Carter, but what he says is shallow and uninteresting.

Tom DePlonty said...

Asia makes no attempt to support his opinions with anything apart from his own - unexplained - ideas about what "works" and what's "beautiful". And he assumes that we should all share the same ideas about that.

Well, that's already a mistake; there are plenty of people who listen to Carter's with genuine pleasure. That's why you find this in an early graph: "...because even among his musical and compositional friends, while they found Carter quite likeable, few, it is said, really liked his music." That it is said is a great big flashing neon sign (of intellectual dishonesty) as is the condescension toward the music he allows kind of "works". He's set out to trash Carter, but he knows these pieces are actually kind of good and pretty easy to get, hence the snark.

Let me ask a question - what value does this kind of criticism add to the discussion about Carter, or about beauty, or about how music works? I find this kind of thing tiresome even (as here) when I ought to be fairly sympathetic. Somebody writes that composer X is not really writing music, and (by implication anyway) anyone who values that stuff is deluded. I've read the same damned thing about Cage, Carter, Reich, Glass...pick your side, and trash away!

I think it adds nothing, and it's a crashing bore.

Genevieve Castle Room said...

I think Daniel Asia’s article is mostly on target though it did contain a few factual errors.

It’s hard to understand why it provoked this howl of wounded outrage from the above blogger given the fact that Carter was one of the most well represented (overhyped?) composers of the past 50 years.

calimac said...

I find it fascinating that negative criticism of Glass is invariably factually inaccurate in its description of his music. It might fit Michael Nyman, but not Glass. And then when you ask the critic what work of Glass's generated that reaction from them, they invariably can't remember.

Asia, by contrast, is dead-on in his description of what Carter's music consists of, even if you don't like its spin.

I haven't taken a survey any more than Asia has, but the number of people I've met who like really abstruse modern music but hate Carter's is legion. I think of one friend who loves Birtwistle and Scelsi but can't take Carter.

Heck, I'd rather listen to Scelsi myself. He at least has emotional content. Carter is so utterly frickin' arid. Even his early tonal music is arid.

Aleksei said...

Calimac is right.

Anyway, I gradually grew out of the cuss-word-every-sentence groove after leaving the Air Force (it took awhile). In the case of this blog piece, my question is: What does the cussing add to the argument? For me nothing. But it does contribute to my mental picture of the blogger - re faced, excreting spittle. Yes, I realize it's a joke entry but of a very unimaginative and dull sense of humor.

Not persuasive.

Anonymous said...

I would ask the Tumblr blogger to step back for a moment and consider the following:

* Elliott Carter was championed by many leading conductors and soloists: James Levine, Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo-Ma.

* He won the Pulitzer Prize TWICE (among other accolades)

* He received an unusually steady stream of flattery from journalists and critics.

So I’m not exactly sure why this person is getting all bent out of shape over the commentary by one writer.

Barbara M.

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

"My Grandfather beat up your Grandfather at the premiere of “Le Sacre du Printemps." (Rare film clip tonight on the eleven o’clock news!")

C'mon ladies and gentlemen! The internet, especially in those fora where everyone is supposedly qualified, with degrees, wax 'n' seals, are rife with those who would love to be recognised as brilliant authorities on this or that, and some are bilious black-green with envy that people like Daniel Asia have gotten there (at all), or gotten there first.

ET VOILA: a very loud and unimportant First World Problem on full display for all to see. In this case the Tumblr blogger's tirade.

Here is the lesson for all of us:

Don't be fooled for a moment that those who love highly sophisticated music, whether it is Machaut, Mozart or Carter, are not incapable of the harshest crudeness.

Dan Brunnsen

Lisa Hirsch said...

See, everybody has different ears. I do not find Carter arid at all, and I do find his surfaces beautiful.

> I find it fascinating that negative criticism of Glass is invariably factually inaccurate in its description of his music.

"Invariably"? I've liked some of Glass's music and disliked some of Glass's music, and I don't believe I've been particularly inaccurate in how I described the pieces I didn't like.