Ben Johnston at 80: Symposium

Digital Moving Image

Event Type
Lectures and Panel Discussions
Program Length
101 min
2006-04-15 | created
Ben Johnston delivers an autobiographical lecture describing his early music influences, including Harry Partch, as part of a keynote speech at Microfest 2006's "Ben at 80 Symposium". Though recorded at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro for remote broadcast, the symposium and concerts were held at Claremont Colleges in California. Johnston also discusses in detail his interest in microtonal music and in particular, just intonation. He then answers questions posed by the audience.

"Johnston’s marriage of pure tuning with standard musical instruments has produced an unequivocally distinctive repertoire, more talked about than heard due to the uncompromising demands made of performers. But seemingly ‘impossible’ music from the past has, in ensuing generations, become standard repertoire. One need only think of Beethoven’s String Quartets, or Stravinsky’s Le Sacre. A new generation of players has found much meaning and beauty in Johnston’s wonderful scores which make it quite clear why New York Times critic John Rockwell called Ben Johnston “One of the best nonfamous composers this country has to offer...”.

In his soft, slight Southern drawl, Ben Johnston reveals an agile, reflective mind, vitally concerned with the musical, political & social issues of our times. We gain insight into the man who may have created America’s most important string quartet cycle. Only time will tell, of course, but as the Times review quoted above concludes, 'Ben Johnston's day will come. But he's 80, and it seems quite stupid for anyone to wait a minute longer'." - John Schneider (MicroFest)
Microtonal music
20th century classical
Composition (Music)
Just intonation
Microtonal music
20th century classical
Related place
Greensborough (N.C.) (was recorded at)
Related Entities
Johnston, Ben