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Ebook Information

"Maximum Clarity" and Other Writings on Music

Awards and Recognition:

Awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award (2007).

The selected writings of an innovative composer

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 of Johnston's writings spans his whole career and shows him to be a truly literate composer who writes about music, his own and that of others, with eloquence and charm.

"Maximum Clarity" and Other Writings on Music 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years and brings together forty-one of Johnston's most important writings, including many rare and several previously unpublished selections.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. The volume concludes with a discography of all commercially available recordings of Johnston's music.

"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, associate professor, School of Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"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, Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music Emeritus, Dartmouth College


Ben Johnston taught theory and composition from 1951 to 1984 at the School of Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Now retired, he lives in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Bob Gilmore is Senior Lecturer in Music at Brunel University, London. He is the author of Harry Partch: A Biography.

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