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 |6 pages


chapter 1|54 pages

Elliott Carter’s First String Quartet

In search of Proustian time

chapter 2|57 pages

Elliott Carter’s Second String Quartet

Formation of a new harmonic language and character-continuities

chapter 3|36 pages

Elliott Carter’s Third String Quartet

Separation in time and space

chapter 4|39 pages

Connecting the dots

Compositional process in Elliott Carter’s Fourth String Quartet

chapter 5|31 pages

A synthesis

Elliott Carter’s Fifth String Quartet