Happy Birthday, Chronometros

My work was submitted under the pseudonym of Chronometros . . .

--Elliott Carter in his entry in the 25th Anniversary Report of the Harvard Class of 1930, referring to his First Quartet and its entry in a composition competition.

Carter goes on, quoting a letter he received after the Quartet won the competition:

I don't know if Feldbusch, the 'cellist of the Liege Quartet, has written you, but if not, here's his story, which may please you. He and Koch, the leader, detested the quartet all through rehearsals and the first performance. The eve of the final desicion, the judges listened to tape recordings and for the first time F and K were able to listen, not play. They were overwelmed, and F, a big hulk of an extrovert, not at all given to romanticism, I assure you, said he found himself on the verge of tears, and K also was moved. Meeting an old friend the day of the final concert, F insisted he come, deliberately telling him he must hear Chronometros, a terrible work, nonsensical, no rhyme or reason. Now the old friend was a coal miner, a guy who went down in the pits at the age of fourteen and has done nothing else in his life, is now forty-five, and goes once a year or so to the opera for Manon or Carmen. He came to the concert and the next day looked up F, threatened to bash his nose in, called him every dirty name in the Walloon vocabulary, said F knew nothing about music and deserved to hear nothing better than Manon or Carmen if he couldn't understand Chronometros. Says he: "This is the first time I have felt in music that a man was talking to me like a man; the guy who wrote that understands the fear I experience when I get down into a new mine not sure whether or not it is going to cave in on me; he's got guts and muscle, and he digs in his music like I dig in hard rock; he sweats like I do, he's a worker like I am; and you, Feldbusch, you're nothing but a goddamned fool of a musician if you can't understand that."

Other Carter posts at listen.:

Carter in Atlanta

More on Carter in Atlanta


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