"An Imagined Drama of Competitive Opposition in Carter's Scrivo in Vento"

author: Joshua B. Mailman

Music Analysis, forthcoming in 2009

ABSTRACT: Carter's music poses struggles of opposition, for instance in timbre (in the Double Concerto), space (in the Third Quartet), or pulse (in the Fifth Quartet). His preference for the all-interval tetrachords is also well known.1 From these facets of Carter's music, I develop a narrative interpretation of his Petrarch sonnet inspired solo flute piece: Scrivo in Vento. Specifically, I forge narrative paths by imagining the two tetrachords as active agents opposed in competition.

Previous Scrivo analyses by Capuzzo (2002) and Childs (2006) stress continuity by revealing Q-transforms and common-tone voice leading between the tetrachords. While acknowledging such features, my analysis emphasizes oppositional struggle by tracing the tetrachords as separate entities that cooperate and conflict as they manoeuvre to outdo each other.

The analysis advances three agendas. First: It guides listening to and reading Scrivo in a way that resonates with Carter's concern for the aesthetics of oppositional struggle, his choice of a sonnet as inspiration, and his affinity for the all-interval tetrachords. Second: It shows how music analytic detail can be organized into dramatic narratives by (a) projecting dramatic roles onto categories asserted by a formal theory and (b) treating the formal theory's relations metaphorically as actions performed by each role. Third: It shows detailed pc set analysis can support a Heraclitean view of music: a flux of opposing forces seeking and resisting unity.