Ben Johnston (composer)

Benjamin Burwell Johnston, Junior ( born March 15, 1926 in Macon, Georgia) is an American composer who used the pure mood and for that invented their own system of notation.

Johnston's music

He was particularly influenced by the composer and instrument builder Harry Partch, expanded its concept but on the 11th of natural clay and sat "Just Intonation" for classical instruments. Stylistically his music is broad and includes, with varying emphasis both serial and neoclassical elements, also forms jazz and American folk music approximates. With Carmilla he even wrote a rock opera.


Johnston studied with Darius Milhaud, worked in 1950 with Partch in Gualala (California ) together and learned there, even playing music and instruments provoking, Partch's concept of "just intonation " know. From 1951 to 1983 he taught composition and music theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana -Champaign and promoted from this position Harry Partch in several of his operatic productions. Johnston worked with John Cage and has widespread contacts with key experimental composers in the United States. He gave the younger composers such as Larry Polansky and Manfred Stahnke microtonal concepts. Recently, he has devoted himself more and more intense Eastern meditation.

Johnston received various scholarships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959. He was sponsored by the National Council on the Arts and the Humanities in 1966 and was awarded two contracts by the Smithsonian Institute.

An important book about Johnston is Bob Gilmore's edition of Johnston's writings: Maximum Clarity and Other Writings on Music ( 2006).

With his orchestral work Quintet for Groups he had 2008 to the Donaueschingen Music Days a brilliant success and was awarded the prize of the SWR Sinfonierorchesters.

CD recordings

  • 2006 The Kepler Quartet. Ben Johnston String Quartets. New World Records. Ben Johnston: String Quartet No.. 9
  • Ben Johnston: Crossings: String Quartet No.. 3
  • Ben Johnston: Crossings: The Silence
  • Ben Johnston: Crossings: String Quartet No.. 4 (Amazing Grace)
  • Ben Johnston: String Quartet No.. 2