Elliot Carter is widely respected and one example is this recent article by Tim Page. He talks about the Oboe Concerto of 1986 as some of the "warmest, most direct and intimate music of his career". Let's put part one of that piece up to listen to while you read on:
The article is full of praise for Carter. Another article, this time by composer Daniel Asia, is critical throughout. Here is a sample:
The point he is making is that maximally complex music, that presents us with intricate atonal pitch structures and similarly intricate and jagged rhythmic structures, after a while simply sounds like chaos. Any structure that you can't actually hear is no structure at all. It certainly isn't noise because by listening closely you certainly hear the pitches and rhythms and perhaps can discern motivic relationships, but overall, the music refuses to be heard as a discernible structure.
To write such severe criticism of another composer is a bold act. What most composers do is either behave with warm collegiality to their peers or ignore them. But with the growth of ideological manifestoes in the 19th and 20th centuries, composers more and more attack other composers, often out of self-interest. As Daniel Asia mentions, Pierre Boulez furthered his career by writing a notorious essay proclaiming the death of Schoenberg!
One of the dangers of being so critical of a fellow composer is that you will get a great deal of negative reactions as we can see from the comment section to the article by Mr. Asia. Let's have a listen to some of his music for a comparison. Here is his Symphony No. 1, dating from 1987, the year after Carter's Oboe Concerto:
Perhaps this is just an indication of my limitations, but I find that more interesting than the piece by Carter. I have tried to find my way into Carter's music quite a few times, but I always lose interest because I can find no thread to follow. On the other hand, I do get a sense of structure from the piece by Daniel Asia.
Which composers win prizes and are frequently praised in the mass media is often accidental or a product of skillful marketing. After a hundred years, if you look back, it is often the lesser-known composers whose music grows in popularity after their death. Of course, I don't know whether it will be Daniel Asia's music that lasts or Elliot Carter's, but time will tell. I certainly don't see anything wrong with criticizing a composer's music.
So, what do you think?