I cannot begin to explain how privileged I feel to have known Elliott Carter. He was my great friend, my mentor, and an inspiration for much I have done in my life. Of course, as someone who cares passionately about classical music, the insight I received and the brilliant musical perspective I came to understand from him was invaluable, but knowing Elliott was more than just knowing the greatest composer of recent time; it gave me a link to history that only his exceptional longevity, his phenomenal memory, his acute sense of observation, and his humanity could offer.
What was most remarkable about Elliott Carter was his perpetual youthful curiosity. Living past the age of 103, he led a life of remarkable productivity, and throughout that life, he never lost his insatiable thirst for knowledge not only musical, but from every field of inquiry and aspect of life. In music, his youthfulness manifested itself in the fact that just about whenever he set about to compose he ended up redefining the form of the composition he was working on whether it was a duet or an opera. Outside of music, his interests were all-encompassing. Our conversations would range from the pronunciation of Homeric Greek to exotic plant species to contemporary politics. He was interested to know about everything from the space-time continuum to the recipes of the various courses of the virtuoso birthday dinners which my wife, Ayako Oshima, would prepare for him and his friends.
In looking back to our wonderful times together, my thoughts turn as well to Elliott’s brilliant wife, Helen, who passed away nine years ago. They were an inseparable couple, and I felt so much of his sensibility was informed by her great sense of taste and incredible perceptiveness.
It was Elliott’s perpetual youth that made his passing at such a remarkable age, while expected, so unexpected. His loss will touch me for a long time to come, but I will carry his influence and vision in everything I do.