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Elliott Carter's <I>What Next?</I>


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In 1997, the eminent American composer Elliott Carter teamed with British music critic/librettist Paul Griffiths to create the one-act opera What Next? Hailed by the New York Times as "theatrically dynamic" and "poignant," the opera explores how six people work together to emerge from the wreckage of an accident. Today, What Next? enjoys a prominent position in Carter's celebrated "late late" compositional period.

In the first book to focus exclusively on one Carter composition, Guy Capuzzo uses the metaphors of communication, cooperation, and separation to trace the dramatic arc of What Next? Through an approach that places stage action, words, and music on equal footing, Capuzzo's readings of four excerpts from the opera reveal the inner workings of Carter and Griffiths's tragicomedy.

Elliott Carter's "What Next?": Communication, Cooperation, and Separation sheds light on a significant work by a major figure in twentieth-century concert music and will be of interest to all who study American music, vocal music, and musical criticism.

Guy Capuzzo is associate professor of music theory at the University of North Carolina - Greensboro.

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Keenly perceptive. . . . Excellent choice of an illustrative `analytical vignette' at end of chapter 2. . . . Illustrated with exceptionally well-produced music examples that will aid anyone wanting to be rewarded by close listening to the connections he uncovers. MUSIC & LETTERS [Marguerite Boland]

Among the best musicological writings devoted to Carter. . . . Greatly facilitated by a presentation that is remarkably clear. REVUE DE MUSICOLOGIE [Denis Vermaelen]

A rare example of a book devoted entirely to a single, recent composition. . . . Show[s] how Carter manages to create a reliably functioning mechanism more than equal to the demands he makes on it. MUSICAL TIMES [Arnold Whittall] In elucidating the inner workings of Carter's musical language Capuzzo makes a significant contribution to Carter scholarship, and to the literature of contemporary music theory. --John Link, William Paterson University

A fascinating study. . . . Capuzzo addresses the inner clarity and expressive immediacy of 'What Next,' as well as the tragicomedy."OPERA NEDERLAND [Mark Duijnstee] Capuzzo's prose style is plain-spoken and approachable. . . . Lively and rewarding. OPERA NEWS [Arlo McKinnon]
Full Review In his insightful book-length analytical study of this opus, Guy Capuzzo has contributed an invaluable resource to Carter studies, as well as to post-tonal music theory. . . . [He] expresses his ideas with clarity, and those who do not have a predilection for technical analysis will still be able to gain much insight into the narrative, drama, history, and critical reception of the work. Readers are also fortunate that the quality of the publication is quite high, and University of Rochester Press is to be commended for their attention to editorial detail. Furthermore, Capuzzo's study makes a nice companion to those books on Carter and his music already in the press's catalogue (Carter 1997 and Meyer and Shreffler 2008). Anyone who knows these sources will certainly want Capuzzo's monograph as part of their collection as well. MUSIC THEORY ONLINE [J. Daniel Jenkins] Full Review


First Published: 15 Sep 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580464192
66 line drawing illustrations
Pages: 204
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
BIC Class: AV

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Preliminaries
  • 3  An Analytic Approach to What Next?
  • 4  Identity Formation in Episodes 1-2
  • 5  Communication and Irony in the Explanation Episodes
  • 6  Cooperation and Confusion in the Hope Episodes
  • 7  Communication and Gender Breakdown in Episodes 37-38
  • 8  Appendix: Libretto Excerpts
  • 9  Notes
  • 10  Bibliography
  • 11  Index

Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter

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Elliott Carter: Collected Essays and Lectures, 1937-1995