After decades of listening, study, and concertgoing, I gave my first real lecture on Elliott Carter last night. I spoke to the Philadelphia Fans of Classical Music at a beautiful private apartment (co-op, really) in Melrose Park, about a fifteen-minute drive from where I live. About 18 people showed up, and they all stayed to the end.
It was Carter 101. I covered the basics of his life and goals and played about twenty or so musical examples, which I burned onto a single CD a week ago. I spoke off the cuff, with a few notes, and had to edit myself as I went along. I had only two ours to speak, with a ten-minute snack break. That wasn’t nearly enough time to impart all of the information I could have. (I never mentioned the Congress for Cultural Freedom.) I therefore focused on Carter’s on Carter’s relationship to Charles Ives and his music, and his appreciation for poetry, which helped me organize my thoughts. I felt I stammered, faltered, repeated myself too often, but no one seemed to notice. I was tired and hungry when it was over, as I am after an afternoon of cycling.
Reaction has been uniformly positive. The comments left on the group’s website have been complimentary. One person even said she’d be interested in a second, more detailed presentation focused on a single time period or a few pieces. Another said he was particularly impressed that “18 people came and listened to music by one of the most difficult composers of modern times, stayed through the whole presentation, and came away (in large part) loving it.”
Now that I know I can do this, I’m thinking of hiring myself out for weddings and graduation parties.