1st Edition

Compositional Process in Elliott Carter’s String Quartets A Study in Sketches

By Laura Emmery Copyright 2020
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    Compositional Process in Elliott Carter’s String Quartets is an interdisciplinary study examining the evolution and compositional process in Elliott Carter’s five string quartets. Offering a systematic and logical way of unpacking concepts and processes in these quartets that would otherwise remain opaque, the book’s narrative reveals new aspects of understanding these works and draws novel conclusions on their collective meaning and Carter’s place as the leading American modernist.

    Each of Carter’s five string quartets is driven by a new idea that Carter was exploring during a particular period, which allows for each quartet to be examined under a unique lens and a deeper understanding of his oeuvre at large. Drawing on key ideas from a variety of subjects including performance studies, philosophy, music cognition, musical meaning and semantics, literary criticism, and critical theory, this is an informative volume for scholars and researchers in the areas of music theory and musicology.

    Analyses are supplemented with sketch study, correspondence, text manuscripts, and other archival sources from the Paul Sacher Stiftung, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library.


    Chapter 1: Elliott Carter’s First String Quartet: In Search of Proustian Time

    Chapter 2: Elliott Carter’s Second String Quartet: Formation of a New Harmonic Language and Character-Continuities

    Chapter 3: Elliott Carter’s Third String Quartet: Separation in Time and Space

    Chapter 4: Connecting the Dots: Compositional Process in Elliott Carter’s Fourth String Quartet

    Chapter 5: A Synthesis: Elliott Carter’s Fifth String Quartet




    Laura Emmery is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Emory University. Her research focuses on 20th-/21st-century music and post-tonal theory, with an interdisciplinary approach that draws on philosophy, literary criticism, critical theory, and performance studies. Having spent over two years at the Paul Sacher Stiftung conducting a critical study of the original sources, her analysis of Elliott Carter’s music incorporates sketch study in tracking the composer’s evolution and process. Her work on Carter has been published in The Musical Quarterly, Contemporary Music Review, Tempo, Twentieth-Century Music, Sonus, Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher, and Form and Process in Music, 1300-2014: An Analytical Sampler. Laura Emmery holds a PhD in Music Theory from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an MM in Theoretical Studies from the New England Conservatory of Music.

    This book provides valuable insights into Carter’s compositional processes that go far beyond the “little problems” of “brief passages.”... Her investigation provides a welcome contribution to sketch studies, while leaving open many avenues for further research in Carter’s music.

    Peter Smucker, Stetson University School of Music