By David Ng, Claire Noland and Mark Swed
7:00 PM EST, November 5, 2012
Elliott Carter, one of the preeminent American composers of the past century, has died at 103. He died of natural causes at his home in New York, according to his close friend and assistant Virgil Blackwell.
A prolific composer who won two Pulitzer Prizes, Carter was a titan of the contemporary music world. He penned works for orchestras, chamber ensembles, solo instruments and singers. His music evolved throughout his career, with his best-known works marked by atonal sounds and experimental rhythms.
Active until the end, Carter did not allow old age to slow his productivity. One of his most recent works, "Dialogues II," a piece for piano and orchestra, had its world premiere last month at La Scala in Milan, Italy, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
Another piece, "Instances" for chamber orchestra, is scheduled to debut next year at the Seattle Symphony.
Carter's music was influenced by many of the great 20th century composers, including Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith. While his compositions were praised by critics and other writers, the general public had a more difficult time warming to his music due to its complexities.
His work was championed by prominent conductors including Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim and James Levine.
Carter was born in 1908 in New York. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and returned to New York to compose and teach. His rate of output was matched by his longevity, making him one of the most prolific composers of the past century.
In 2008, he celebrated his 100th birthday with a concert held in his honor at Carnegie Hall.
Among his many honors was the National Medal for Arts in 1985 and two Pulitzers for his String Quartet No. 3 in 1973 and his Second String Quartet in 1960.
He is survived by his son, David, of Spencer, Ind., and a grandson.
Listen to Carter's "Night Fantasies":
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