During the last 20 years, Elliot Carter has mainly written chamber music and solo pieces, simplifying enormously his music means. Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi for solo violin (1984), is a paradigm of different ways to create narrative through the use of sets and temporalities.
The main elements of the piece are 3 different materials that contrast with each other in speed, register, texture, and pitch content, being their rhythmic content: an unsteady metrical grid, a continuous, and a durational framework. These temporalities have also different pitch contents that reveal an interesting association of speed and tonal stability, through the use of 4 and 7-note sets and chromatic saturation.
The piece is also subdivided into 3 Sections: The 1st Section exploits the contrast between the different materials; The 2nd section, firstly juxtaposes and finally integrates two of them; Finally, in the 3rd section the three materials are integrated and led to a climax.
In a nutshell, Carter bases this piece upon 3 philological perceptions of time: time as contemplation (static), time as process (dynamic) and the classical ‘tempus ex machina’ (continuous). The narrative is supported by the instability of the rhythmic and pitch structure; however, the aim of the piece is to show how temporality and stability can be two sides of the same directional vector, which drives the piece to expand its content towards a climax, and thereby integrating its contrasting materials.