An Imagined Drama of Competitive Opposition in Carter's Scrivo in Vento, with Notes on Narrative, Symmetry, Quantitative Flux and Heraclitus



Carter's music poses struggles of opposition, for instance in timbre (Double Concerto), space (String Quartet No. 3) or pulse (String Quartet No. 5). His preference for the all-interval tetrachords, 4–Z15 [0, 1, 4, 6] and 4–Z29 [0, 1, 3, 7], is also well known. From these facets of Carter's music, I develop a narrative interpretation of his Petrarch sonnet–inspired solo flute piece, Scrivo in Vento (1991). Specifically, I forge narrative pathways by imagining the two tetrachords as active agents opposed in competition. Previous Scrivo analyses (Capuzzo 2002; Childs 2006) stress continuity by revealing Q-transforms and common-note voice leading between the tetrachords. While acknowledging such features, my analysis emphasises oppositional struggle by tracing the tetrachords as separate entities which cooperate and conflict as they manoeuvre to outdo each other.

The analysis advances three theses: (1) it guides listening to and reading Scrivo in a way which resonates with Carter's concern for the aesthetics of oppositional struggle, his choice of a sonnet as inspiration and his affinity for all-interval tetrachords; (2) it shows that music-analytical detail can be organised 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 as the musical work unfolds; and (3) it shows how detailed pc-set analysis can support a Heraclitean view of music: a flux of opposing forces seeking and resisting unity.