Devoted to themes of social justice and the artist’s vision, Carter’s work focuses on historical stories that cross over boundaries of race and power. His early song cycle, Shouts, faces, cities and lonely roads (1990) evokes the images and aspirations of the civil rights era. He wrote the words and music for No Easy Walk to Freedom, based on the life of Nelson Mandela, which was premiered at The Riverside Church in New York City in 2001. Strange Fruit, based on the tragic novel by Lillian Smith and libretto by Joan Ross Sorkin, was showcased in New York City Opera’s Vox series and opened Long Leaf Opera’s inaugural 2007 summer festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Long Leaf Opera also premiered his one-act monodrama Mercury Falling (2009), written for tenor and librettist Daniel Neer. The Center for Contemporary Opera showcased Act I of Bobby, based on the life of Robert Kennedy with libretto by Stephen Molton. In 2018, he and librettist Diana Solomon-Glover received a prestigious commission from the Opera for All Voices consortium to write This Little Light of Mine, based on the life of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, scheduled for premiere in 2021.
In addition to works for the stage, Carter has composed over fifty songs and numerous choral, chamber and orchestral pieces, which have been performed internationally by distinguished recitalists, choirs and ensembles, including the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Riverside Church Choir and the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra. Carter has received several awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
A Professor of Music and Chair of Composition at Hofstra University, Carter is also a respected scholar. His book, The Last Opera: The Rake’s Progress in the Life of Stravinsky and Sung Drama, was published by Indiana University Press in 2019.