The Second String Quartet (1959) follows this style even further so that each of the four instrumental parts are distinctly independent from one another, each carrying its own "persona" made up of specific intervalic structures, textures, tempi, or articulations. The Third String Quartet (1971) is instead made up of two contrasting duos sharing ten unequally divided movements (the violin I/cello group plays four movements, the violin II/viola group plays the remaining six) in a way that the duos constantly overlap. Silences between movements are employed only in order to bring the opposing duo to the fore. Again, Carter strictly assigns certain musical attributes to each duo, delighting in setting the two in clear contrast.
Also composed in this period are the Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano (1961) and the Concerto for Orchestra (1969). The Double Concerto assigns a separate chamber orchestra to each soloist, while the Concerto for Orchestra consists of four separate ensembles using four distinct styles of music. Both works exploit the small scale tactics of the string quartets in a much larger and timbrally and texturally diverse ensemble, adding an even more complex and intense aspect to Carter's stylistic traits.
Three important vocal works between the years of 1975 and 1981 bring a level of "humanism" and a touch of lyricism back to Carterís writing, though the overall techniques of composition remain very much in tact. This triptych of chamber cantatasóA Mirror on Which to Dwell for soprano (1975), Syringa for mezzo (1978), and In Sleep, In Thunder for tenor (1981)óis often thought of as contrasting compositional period, although this analysis ignores several significant instrumental works such as A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976) and the Duo for Violin and Piano (1974).
The last 10 years have found Elliott Carter still at the height of his career, with no signs of a slowing output. A Fourth String Quartet (1986), a Violin Concerto (1990), and Partita (1993), and a wide range of new, virtuosic pieces for small ensembles or unaccompanied solo instruments have solidified Carterís monumental place in music history.