Xen Radio – Special Edition: Ben Johnston

On July 21, 2019, Ben Johnston passed away. He is most well known for bis pioneering work with microtonality—especially just intonation. Unlike Harry Partch, whom he studied with in the 1950s, Johnston composed music for conventional instruments. One of his greatest achievements is his cycle of 10 string quartets, which have recently all been recorded by the Kepler Quartet. In memory of Johnston, the July 23 episode of XEN RADIO was completely dedicated to his music. It featured his sixth string quartet, selections from his song cycle, The Tavern, the Suite for Microtonal Piano, and his Trio for clarinet, violin, and cello.

Ben Johnston, March 15, 1926 – July 21, 2019
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Xen Radio, Episode 15

After two weeks off to catch the Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Convention and Competition (congrats to Signature on their well-deserved win), and to take some time off, XEN RADIO returns with some non-western music from Kurdistan and India, along with some rock, electronic music, and jazz.

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Xen Radio, Episode 14

In commemoration of Harry Partch’s 118th birthday on June 24 (the day before the broadcast), this episode features the new recording of Harry Partch’s Sonata Dementia by the Los Angeles group, PARTCH. The work is a bizarre parody of sonata form that uses Patch’s brand of microtonality to mock the modulations of the classical form. Alongside Sonata Dementia are works by Ezra Sims, Ben Johnston, Terry Riley, and we completed our journey through Veli Kujala’s Hyperchromatic Counterpoint.

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Xen Radio, Episode 13

This week’s XEN RADIO featured some contemporary works along with some noise by David First and Chicken and the Chick Flicks, and of course, we continue through Veli Kujala’s Hyperchromatic Counterpoint.

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Xen Radio, Episode 12

Again, XEN RADIO opens and closes with the music of Veli Kujala and Ben Johnston. Their work is joined this week by Fretless Brothers, Jute Gyte, Löis Lancaster, Billy Stiltner, and Eliza Brown.

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Xen Radio, Episode 11

The first episode of June featured mostly new music I learned of since I started producing XEN RADIO — Elk Minister, Veli Kujala, and Elaine Walker are recent additions to my own awareness of xenharmonic music. And they complemented the music I had known about for a while, such as Cage’s Solos for Voice and the King Gizzard tracks.

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Xen Radio, Episode 10

Over the next several weeks (now until the June 25 episode) XEN RADIO will be featuring sections of two major microtonal works: Ben Johnston’s String Quartet No. 1, Nine Variations, and Veli Kujala’s Hyperchromatic Counterpoint. Kujala’s work will be opening each show, and Johnston’s will be closing each show; sometimes, you might hear one of those movements among the the middle of the show. This week was also the first track we’ve heard by Harry Partch — who we’ll be hearing more of in the weeks to come — and three tracks from Brendan Byrnes album Room Tapes.

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Xen Radio, Episode 9

Episode 9 is juxtaposition of two works, Tombo por Lou, composed and recorded by John Schneider on his recent album, Just National Guitar, and Mileece’s electronic music album, Formations. The show goes back and forth between the Mileece’s tracks and the movements of Schneider’s work. There’s something strangely similar about these two works, despite there obvious differences.

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Xen Radio, Episode 8

Occasionally, XEN RADIO will take the time to feature a longer work. Episode 8 was just such an episode, dedicated to Terry Riley’s 1975 work for electronic keyboard, Descending Moonshine Dervishes. To fill out the rest of the hour, we paid another visit to some of Easley Blackwood’s Microtonal Etudes.

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Xen Radio, Special Edition: The Mercury Tree

For this special edition of XEN RADIO, I was joined in the KPISS RV by the mircotonal rock band, The Mercury Tree. They’re in the midst of a tour all over the country and I was luck enough for them to make the time to visit the studio and to curate a playlist of xenharmonic/microtonal tracks that they love.

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