Duo for Violins
b. 1926 -
Ben Johnston was born in Macon, Georgia in 1926, and holds degrees from William and Mary College, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Mills College. He joined the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1951, and currently serves as Professor of Composition and Theory.
Among his works which have been widely performed are Knocking Piece for piano interior and two percussionists, String Quartet No: 2 (in the repertory of the Composers Quartet, who recorded it on Nonesuch H71224) and Duo for flute and string bass, recorded by Bertram and Nancy Turetzky on Advance FGR-1) and John Fonville and Thomas Fredrickson on CRI 405. His Quintet for Groups was commissioned by Eleazar de Carvalho, former conductor of the St. Louis Symphony and was premiered by that orchestra in 1967. The Swingle Singers commissioned his Ci-Git Satie, recorded by Kenneth Gaburo and the New Music Choral Ensemble on Ars Nova - Ars Antiqua EN-1005. His opera Carmilla was commissioned in 1970 by the ETC Company of La Mama of New York and recorded by them on Vanguard (SD-79322). His Sonata for Microtonal Piano was recorded by Robert Miller on New World Records, SW 203. His String Quartet No. 4 was recorded by the Fine Arts Quartet, who commissioned the work, on Gasparo, G5905.
Johnston's Suite for Microtonal Piano was commissioned by Roger Shields in 1977. His Duo for Two Violins was commissioned by Jeanne Vos and Bouw Lemkes in 1977. Strata, realized by Bohdan Mazurek, was commissioned by Polish Radio. String Quartet No. 5 (1979) was commissioned by the Concord Quartet. Diversion for 11 instruments (1979) was commissioned by the New Repertory Ensemble of New York City. String Quartet No. 6 (1979) was commissioned by the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation for the New World Quartet. The Fromm Music Foundation commissioned his Sonnets of Desolation for the Swingle Singers, in 1980. The American Music Center comissioned a new piano work for Virginia Gaburo in 1980.
He participated in 1981 in the Musik der Anderen Tradition series in Bonn and in the I. R. C. A. M. sponsored series Les Microintervalles in Paris. At both cities his Sonata for Microtonal Piano was performed by Deborah Richards. Among the honors he has received are a Guggenheim Fellowship (1959), a grant from the National Council on the Arts and the Humanities (1966), and Associate Membership in the University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study (1966). In 1968 the Smithsonian Institution awarded him two commisions: for a film score and for a sound environment.