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katya-oddio on 02/18/2017 at 05:07PM

String Quartet Moment of Zen

"Mount Fuji" by Mya Told

Coming in under four minutes, these two contemporary string quartets by Maciej Żołnowski may serve as a moment of beauty in your day, or as John Stewart used to say at the end of The Daily Show, "your moment of zen."

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natewooley on 04/13/2011 at 03:38PM

Ben Johnston: The Baddest Composer You Probably Don't Know

The Great Ben Johnston

I always find it refreshing in this age, when even the most embattled, embittered, and reclusive of artists still have a very active facebook page and some sort of aggressive"web presence", to find a truly incredible composer or performer that I've never heard of.  Part of me enjoys the hipster cadre of saying "Stuart Saunders Smith...oh, you haven't heard of him..oh, yeah, I'm a big fan", or "I was just listening to this early Walter Marchetti recording...wait, you don't know Marchetti?!".  Then I put on my bright pink sunglasses and ride my fixed gear bike to get a case of pbr. 

Okay, Okay, enough stereotyping, and on to the point. Which is Ben Johnsont.

Ben Johnston was introduced to me through his new release on New World Records, in which the Kepler Quartet perform his String Quartets 1,5, and 10.  I listen to every New World release, in hopes there is some kind of promotion I can do, even if it is just word of mouth.  I don't like them all, but that's what makes listening to music great, right? 

Johnston was a revelation, though.  As I've said in previous posts, I'm fascinated by that thin line between concept and raw music making.  Johnston's use of just intonation and serialism is so natural and integrated with his use of folk and gospel song and western tonal harmony that the microtonality just becomes a very intense emotional coloring for the listener. If you don't know Ben Johnston, I suggest you take a listen to the two tracks I've listed here, as well as the new release on New World.  Then bring up his name at parties......a lot.


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