Program 539: Ben Johnston
KALW Broadcast Date: November 23, 2018 | Host: Liam Herb
Ben Johnston was born in Macon, Georgia in 1926, and holds degrees from William and Mary College, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and Mills College. He taught at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 1951 to 1983, and has counted among his own teachers and collaborators Harry Partch, Darius Milhaud, and John Cage.
Johnston is known as the foremost living composer using extended just intonation; his most popular work, based on the “Amazing Grace” hymn, is the fourth of ten works for string quartet he has composed to date, and has been recorded by the Kronos Quartet and the Kepler Quartet. Other works by Johnston which have been widely performed include Knocking Piece (1962) for piano interior and two percussionists, Quintet for Groups (1966) commissioned by former St. Louis Symphony conductor Eleazar de Carvalho, Sonata for Microtonal Piano (1960-64), and Suite for Microtonal Piano (1977).
Throughout the course of his career, Johnston has drawn inspiration from a wide variety of sources, creating a rich and stylistically diverse catalogue. Early on he worked with serial processes, but has also employed traditional forms, used melodies of folk and traditional music, incorporated elements of jazz and rock, all the while employing his own systems of just intonation. Johnston has received numerous accolades including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959, a grant from the National Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and commissions from the Smithsonian Institution, the Swingle Singers, the Concord Quartet and many others.
Track Info & Links
Title: 11 Intrusions: The Crane
Composer: Harry Partch
Performers: Harry Partch, Ben Johnston, Betty Johnston, Bill Snead, and Donald Pippin
Recording Title: Harry Partch Collection Volume 1
Record Label: New World Records/CRI
Catalog Number: 80621-2
Title: Crossings: The Ascent; String Quartet No. 4, “Amazing Grace”
Composer: Ben Johnston
Performers: Kepler Quartet
Recording Title: Ben Johnston: String Quartets Nos. 2,3,4 & 9
Record Label: New World Records
Catalog Number: 80637