Compositional Process in Elliott Carter’s String Quartets: A Study in Sketches, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Compositional Process in Elliott Carter’s String Quartets

A Study in Sketches, 1st Edition

By Laura Emmery


296 pages

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Hardback: 9780367151324
pub: 2019-12-20
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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 New York Public Library.

Table of Contents


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



About the Author/Editor

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 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 Ph.D. in Music Theory from University of California at Santa Barbara and a M.M. in Theoretical Studies from New England Conservatory of Music.

About the Series

Ashgate Studies in Theory and Analysis of Music After 1900

The Ashgate Studies in Theory and Analysis of Music After 1900 series celebrates and interrogates the diversity of music composed since 1900, and embraces innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to this repertoire. A recent resurgence of interest in theoretical and analytical readings of music comes in the wake of, and as a response to, the great successes of musicological approaches informed by cultural studies at the turn of the century. This interest builds upon the considerable insights of cultural studies while also recognizing the importance of critical and speculative approaches to music theory and the knowledge-producing potentials of analytical close readings. Proposals for monographs and essay collections are welcomed on music in the classical tradition created after 1900 to the present through the lens of theory and analysis. The series particularly encourages interdisciplinary studies that combine theory and/or analysis with such topical areas as gender and sexuality, post-colonial and migration studies, voice and text, philosophy, technology, politics, and sound studies, to name a few.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General