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"March" from 8 Pieces for Timpani (Elliot Carter)

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Uploaded on Dec 30, 2008

Elliot Carter (b.1908) became seriously interested in music in high school and was influenced by Charles Ives. After studying with Walter Piston at Harvard University, he later studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris before returning to New York to pursue composition and teaching. As an innovator of twentieth-century music, Elliot Carter has received countless awards and honors, including the Gold Medal for Music awarded by the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and two Pulitzer Prizes.

Eight Pieces for Four Timpani (1950/1966) is a collection of short pieces not meant to be performed as a suite. Originally composed as six pieces in 1950, Carter decided to revise and add two additional pieces in 1966. The eight pieces were written as studies in metric modulation, a compositional technique where a syncopated rhythm in one tempo becomes the new tempo. Carter later became famous for using this technique throughout his compositions. Additionally, his use of four-note chords was becoming his favored way of organizing harmony. Like Charles Ives polyrhythmic inventions, the March simulates marching bands playing different tunes counter to one another. One tune is played with a mallet head and the other with a mallet shaft, creating two contrasting textures. These textures, combined with different tempi, suggest a contrast between two drummers. For the timpanist, the March serves as an instrumental challenge of simultaneously impersonating both drummers.

Program Note by Justin R. Stolarik.
April 2005

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