A German pre-Romantic philosopher, Johann Georg Hamman, held that the sense of music was given to man to make it possible to measure time. The composer Elliott Carter’s fame comes partly from a reconception of time in music that fits the world of today (although there are many other aspects of his music to enjoy). We do not measure time regularly, like clocks do, but with many differing rates of speed. In the complexity of today’s experience, it often seems as if simultaneous events were unfolding with different measures. These different measures coexist and often blend but are not always rationalized in experience under one central system. We might call this a system of irreconcilable regularities.
On December 8, 2011 friends of Elliott Carter arranged for a concert at the 92nd St. Y in honor of his 103d birthday, which arrived three days later. All of the works were written in recent years, nine of them since Carter reached his century mark. The evening began with the most promising sign, a performance of a Duettino for violin and cello played by two well-known and superb performers, Rolf Schulte and Fred Sherry, who have played Carter for many decades, and continued with a new piece for solo violin. This was followed by a world premiere of a string trio written earlier in 2011. (“Elliott Carter’s Music of Time”, Charles Rosen, The New York Review of Books, December 28, 2011. Online. Accessed December 3, 2015)
In planning to compose this string trio I realized that the viola had a more somber sound than the more brilliant violin and cello. While held like the violin, it is somewhat larger which forces the fingers that stop the strings to reach further for high notes. Therefore, I felt that I would make the viola have its own voice and be the most prominent member of the ensemble. The work is dedicated to Rolf Schulte, Richard O’Neill and Fred Sherry. It was composed in May, 2011. (Elliott Carter)
This clip is from the St. Petersburg International New Music Festival “Remusik” on September 13, 2013.