Maximum Clarity and Other Writings on Music by Ben Johnston

By Ben Johnston

Described by means of New York Times critic John Rockwell as “one of the easiest non-famous composers this nation has to offer,” Ben Johnston reconceives generic idioms--ranging from jazz to Southern hymns--using simply intonation. Johnston studied with Darius Milhaud, Harry Partch, and John Cage, and is healthier identified for his String Quartet No. 4, a posh sequence of diversifications on Amazing Grace. This quantity finds he's additionally a really literate composer, who writes and speaks approximately tune with eloquence and charm.  “Maximum readability” and different Writings on Music spans 40 years and brings jointly 41 of Johnston’s most crucial writings, together with many infrequent and several other formerly unpublished decisions. They contain place papers, theoretical treatises, software notes, historic reflections, lectures, excerpts from interviews, and letters, they usually hide a vast spectrum of concerns--from the technical exegesis of microtonality to the private and the widely humanistic. the amount concludes with a discography of all commercially to be had recordings of Johnston’s music.

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1979 Composes String Quartet no. 5, originally at the suggestion of the Concord Quartet, but the work is not premiered until 1983 (by the Tremont Quartet). A set of variations on the Appalachian hymn “Lonesome Valley,” it uses 13–limit just intonation and makes the most extreme tuning demands of any of his pieces to date. Also composes Diversion for eleven instruments. 1980 Completes String Quartet no. 6, an 11–limit work based on the Schoenbergian principle of continuous melody. It is premiered by the New World Quartet in 1983 and recorded by them for CRI Records.

1997 Koch International releases a CD of the piano works Saint Joan, the Sonata for Microtonal Piano, and the Suite for Microtonal Piano performed by Phillip Bush. Completes Invocation for soprano and chamber orchestra, which is premiered in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1998 by Cheryl Marshall with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, conducted by Edwin London.  I. Gurdjieff and Thomas De Hartmann. Also composes Octet for the ensemble Music Amici and the song cycle The Tavern for voice and microtonal guitar for John Schneider.

Thus what we commonly call “adding” adjacent intervals is, in acoustics, multiplying their vibration ratios, and subtracting them is dividing their ratios. When we “divide” an interval into “equal” smaller intervals, we seek a smaller ratio which, when multiplied by itself a given number of times, equals the larger ratio: that is, we are extracting roots. This “division” produces “irrational” pitch ratios which seem dissonant or out of tune when compared to near equivalents which are simple ratios.

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