UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cooperation and other unifying processes in Elliott Carter's Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux trilogy Arthur, Claire


Elliott Carter frequently organizes the formal design of his compositions with long-range polyrhythms, such that different parts of the texture move at different, slow tempi, often arranged so that their beats coincide exactly twice, at the beginning and the end of the piece. Many theorists have commented on these tempo ratios, and pointed out how they are manifested, on a smaller time scale, in each instrument’s notated beat divisions. However, building on the work of Link and Roeder, this paper shows that in Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux, Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux II, and Retrouvailles, pieces Carter dedicated to Pierre Boulez, the polyrhythms also guide the interactive behaviour of the instruments. Furthermore, it shows that although these works are all independently complete and coherent, together they can be understood as three movements of a trilogy, whereby the progression from simultaneous melodic parts that run independently of one another in Esprit I to the near-monophonic melody lines in Retrouvailles, as well as the increase in cooperative activity (for example, melody-sharing, and the mutual building of important harmonies) represent a theme of growing reconciliation.

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