Son[i]a #169 Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is an American minimalist composer. A former student of Morton Feldman, his music is mainly based on the application of numerical and logical systems. His approach is unique, quite different from the free wanderings of Feldman, or the repetitions and gradual processes of other American minimalist of his generation, such as Terry Riley or Steve Reich.
His music is often called conceptual but in many cases it depends strongly on the special tempo and sound qualities of the performance with traditional instruments. Such is the case of the "Chord Catalogue", a 1985 piece in which the pianist plays, without omission or repetition, all possible 8178 chords within one octave.
Tom Johnson's music has a special relationship not only with numbers, but also with words. In his operas, such as the well-known "The Four-Note Opera", or in the program notes that he often writes for his music, he uses words not to tell a story, but to make the listener aware of the formal structure of the piece, as well as the evolution of the performance and the process of hearing it.
SON[I]A talks to Tom Johnson about his compositional methods, and the influence that John Cage and Morton Feldman had upon it.