The ten years, from 1972-1982, during which Tom Johnson closely followed the developments in the new music in New York and reported his experiences in the Village Voice, constitute the most innovative and experimental period of recent musical history. A considerable number of his articles and reviews has been brought together in this collection. Together they provide a lively impression of the genesis and the exciting adventure of the new music, of the diversity of utterances that were part of it from the very start, and of the circumstances and opinions which prompted it. Johnson recorded the emergence of a generation of composers and musicians which has set out to probe once more all conventions of the Western musical tradition and to remove the barriers between different cultures and various artistic disciplines. That process is still in full swing. Therefore it is of interest today to read how that process was triggered.
Tom Johnson has been the first champion of this new movement in music. His awareness of the importance of new developments incited him to writing essays that convey his observations quite lucidly, systematically and accurately. His talent for rendering musical experiences directly and intelligibly into language has contributed substantially to the recognition of new music. As artist and composer he participated in the new movement and so he described the development from the angle of the artist. Thus the reader becomes a sharer in the artistic process.
Our book has one serious flaw. One important and prolific composer of the evolution of New York minimalism is completely missing: Tom Johnson himself. A number of his pieces have probably been performed as much as any composition mentioned in this book, and some of them go back to the early seventies.
Tom now lives in Paris and continues writing songs, operas and other compositions. He expresses his perceptions and experiences in his own work as clearly, systematically and meticulously as in his reviews. His music corresponds oddly with the ideas of Boethius, a music theorist from the early middle ages (470-525) who opined that ‘music is number made audible,’ and that ‘it is not just music that is beautiful because of its dependence on number, but everything.’ Tom Johnson’s fascination with counting as a compositional means is brought out in many different ways in his music.
The selection of the articles included in this volume and the final editing have been carried out in close consultation with the writer. I thank Tom Johnson for the attention and time he has invested in this publication and for our amicable collaboration. Next, I would like to thank all of the collaborators, and especially Marja Stienstra who of processed the text with great dedication, Peter de Rooden and Lucas van Beeck for the careful proofreading, and Ton Homburg for the design. Finally, I am grateful towards Arnold Dreyblatt, who suggested the idea of this publication to me. I am convinced that this book will find its way to many readers.
Paul Panhuysen (born 21 August 1934, Borgharen) is a Dutch composer, visual and sound artist. He founded and directed Het Apollohuis, an art space that functioned during the 80's and 90's having artists doing sound installations, sound sculptures, and concerts about free improvisation, experimental music, and electronic music.