Johnson loves counting, systematic calculation, and predictability.
He is the master of a logical music, the essence of which
involves the complete revealing of its premises. Through
the strategy of tautological self-reference, and by avoiding
any sort of mystery, its apparent dry seriousness, all by itself,
can turn into clarifying wit and rather amazing insight.
-Matthias Osterwold, Berlin, 1988
Through various stages of his compositional
development, Johnson's main
concern has been music wich proceeds in predictable ways, and
which thus completely avoids the mysterious or the secret.
This renunciation, even more radical in recent years, with
the use of strict rational systems, does not, however,
threaten the artistic quality of the work. There is always a tension
between the transparent logic of the structure of the piece
and the material that generates it.
-Veniero Rizzardi, Padua, 1984
Tom Johnson likes to push austerity
to the ultimate, and with his bare
materials, he enjoys demonstrating that a new complexity arises
there where we thought we had reached the ultimate simplicity.
-Gérard Condé, Paris, 1985
Contenidos 1. Eighty-Eights (5:20) 2. Mersenne Numbers (7:45) 3. Multiplication Table (7:08) 4. Pascal's triangle (16:32) 5. Euler's Harmonies (5:35) 6. Abundant numbers (17:50)
SIMPLICITY AND CLARITY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AMONG MY CHIEF concerns as a composer. This is probably largely a reaction to the contemporary music I heard as a student in the 60's, which seemed to me to be mostly concerned with complexity and obfuscation. The search for clear, simple, elegant statements led me to a number of different kinds of reductive or minimalistic music, many of which involved counting and numbers, and went even to the point of Counting Languages, which became pure spoken number, with hardly any music left at all.
By 1987, it became obvious that I would understand a little better what I was doing if I knew some mathematics beyond what I had learned in high school algebra. So I began reading some math books, particularly old classics of number theory by Pascal, Fermat, Euclid, and others, and these sources suggested musical structures somewhat more complicated than those I had used before. I wanted to use them, and I wanted them to be clear, and sometimes the only way to be clear is to explain things, and sometimes the explanation is so important that it needs to become part of the music, and that is more or less what happened with the Music for 88.
The result is blatantly didactic, and this is fine as far as I am concerned. The joy of learning can be as great as the joy of any artistic experience, and if listeners here learn something about abundant numbers or Mersenne numbers or tiling patterns, as well as simply hearing some music, that seems fine to me, too.