Monday, November 21, 2016

Ben Johnston String Quartet #4

Having mentioned Ben Johnston's string quartets a few days ago, it seemed like a good idea to link to a performance of one the more accessible quartets in the cycle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4MkJXXMBAw

As in, Jeff, if you still read this blog from time to time go check out Johnston's string quartets, they're amazing!

Johnston's String Quartet No. 4 is a set of variations on "Amazing Grace". Johnston's one of the American composers who has been exploring microtonality and just intonation.  I mean to write more about this realm of music later but for now I'll say that I sometimes wish Roger Scruton's posse would give it a rest ripping on Schoenberg and John Cage because if I never hear Wagner for the rest of my life I won't miss him and because there have been critiques of the 12-tone chromatic scale used in equal temperament as not being more than one relatively recent option for pitch organization.  What if Schoenberg was right to guess that the 12-tone chromatic scale in equal temperament was played out in the tonal idiom?  That doesn't mean that there are no alternatives to that chromatic equally tempered scale, which wasn't even necessarily an option for the early and middle Baroque eras, let alone earlier.

But enough of that.  We can talk about the frequency with which today's avant garde as a rejuvenation or rediscovery of ideas that are recognized as old and perhaps unfairly abandoned options later.

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