Streams

Dennis Johnson's "November"

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

This is the music of gradual change. A piano piece that runs for nearly six hours. Pensive. Music that sweeps the listener along into an elegiac exploration of gentle tonal and rhythmic shifts. This is November by Dennis Johnson, a piece he notated partially in 1959, and recorded informally in 1962. Very few people ever heard the piece, but Johnson's friend La Monte Young was one who did, and November influenced Young's composition The Well-Tuned Piano, and set the stage for Minimalism, one of the most pervasive and persuasive of today's musical styles.

Several years ago La Monte Young gave composer and writer Kyle Gann a wobbly cassette transfer of Johnson's 1962 performance of a portion of November. Gann realized that the history of Minimalism needed to be rewritten to acknowledge November as one of its starting points. Gann joins David Garland to tell how his fascination for and curiosity about November led him to transcribe the old cassette, get in touch with Johnson, and create a full realization of the piece, which has now been recorded by pianist R. Andrew Lee. We hear about the piece, and hear excerpts from this multi-hour quiet explosion of ideas.

Comments [1]

Connie from NJ

I usually listen to the beginning of SOA, and then decide whether to continue listening (frequently I do, not always). When I heard that this piece was from a 6 hour piano piece, I knew I wasn't going to listen. But then it began, and it immediately pulled me in. It was beautiful. I loved the experience. I'll listen to the show again, and perhaps purchase the CD if it is available (and within my budget). Thank you, David Garland; you have once again improved the quality of my life by leaps and bounds.

Aug. 19 2013 01:27 PM

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