Music for 88
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."
Simplicity and clarity have always been among Tom Johnson's chief concerns as a composer. That concern led him to research number theory, particularly by Pascal, Fermat, and Euclid, and these sources suggested musical structures somewhat more complicated than those that he had used before. Music for 88 is the result of these researches. It contains nine sections (six of which are on this recording), each of which is a musical demonstration of a mathematical phenomenon.
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."
"Here, for once, is not the cry of the human heart, but the design of what's out there. And the mystery, the reason why this is art and not science, is that there is a delight in the design itself. Make of it what you will, but it will be around for a few billion years yet."