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Listen Up, Mr. Carter

November 22, 1998

Interviewer Ken Smith asks rebel composer Elliott Carter ("A Composer for the Century," Nov. 15) why modern concert audiences are "stuck in the 19th [century]. Why do they resist the new?" Mr. Carter's predictable response was, "It's hard for me to understand why audiences don't like modern music, because I feel it's so interesting, so lively, with so much more to think about."

Well, Mr. Carter, audiences don't want to be provoked into anything at a concert. The simplest, most profound emotions take over when listening to beautiful, harmonic music, whether it's a Rachmaninoff symphony or the score to "Wuthering Heights."

Audiences feel bewildered by modern music and the gobbledygook written in program notes trying to explain what they already should have gleaned from the music itself.

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder, of course. But ignoring fundamentals of beautiful sound as it relates to sentimental and primal emotions will only widen the chasm that separates artists from their audiences.

RANDY KEMNER

Long Beach

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