"Maximum Clarity" and Other Writings on Music

Author: Ben Johnston
Edited by Bob Gilmore
Selected writings by the celebrated composer of microtonal music
Cloth – $44
Paper – $30
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 03/08/2022
Cloth: 12/06/2006
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About the Book

Described by New York Times critic John Rockwell as "one of the best non-famous composers this country has to offer," Ben Johnston reconceives familiar idioms--ranging from neoclassicism and serialism to jazz and southern hymnody--using just intonation. Johnston studied with Darius Milhaud, Harry Partch, and John Cage, and is best known for his String Quartet No. 4, a complex series of variations on Amazing Grace.

This collection spans forty years and brings together forty-one of Johnston's most important writings, including many rare and several previously unpublished selections. They include position papers, theoretical treatises, program notes, historical reflections, lectures, excerpts from interviews, and letters, and they cover a broad spectrum of concerns--from the technical exegesis of microtonality to the personal and the broadly humanistic. A discography of commercially available recordings of Johnston's music closes out the collection.

About the Author

Ben Johnston (1926-2019) began his recording career in 1968. He taught theory and composition for thirty-three years at the School of Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Bob Gilmore (1961-2015) was a professor, musicologist, and keyboard player. His books include Harry Partch: A Biography.



"Johnston's contributions are monumental, and this collection illustrates why. Not only are the theoretical writings extremely useful for scholars, composers, and performers who want to understand just intonation, but the spiritual aspects of Johnston's writings and Gilmore's explanations are inspiring for all readers."--Heidi Von Gunden, author of The Music of Vivian Fine

"A most valuable and original book, Maximum Clarity gives a much clearer and fuller idea of the music and thought of a truly innovative composer."--Charles Hamm, author of Irving Berlin: Songs From the Melting Pot


Awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award (2007).