Scott Johnson Composer

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Five Movements (1980-82) 36.00

  Steel Shower  
  Ghost Blues
  Epiphany Machine
  Four Witnesses  

solo electric guitar, live electronics

Complete work premiered by Scott Johnson, Apr 23/82, Dance Theater Workshop.  This piece requires a relatively elaborate technical setup for the guitarist.

Notes on the Music

As both an electric guitarist and an aspiring young composer, I could find no indication at the end of the 1970’s that these two traits could ever be coaxed into sharing the same career.  So in 1980-82 I addressed the problem directly with two multi-part works featuring electric guitar.  Both works grew out of sketches and experiments from the previous couple of years.  “John Somebody” placed the live soloist within a pre-recorded texture of multi-tracked, sampled speech mixed with instrumental music derived from the voice patterns.  The other, “5 Movements for Electric Guitar”, used the real-time electronic pitch-shifting of an Eventide Harmonizer to generate an accompaniment for the normal guitar sounds.  I did a number of solo tours with these two works, primarily between 1982 & 1985.

I began with the two outer movements, “Steel Shower” and “Juggernaut”.  Both originally had limited areas of improvisation, which gradually became standardized after numerous performances and a 1983 home recording (audio excerpts above).  The project of preparing a final score of these two movements, with those improvisatory areas based on a transcription of that recording, is about 25 years behind schedule as of this moment (2009).

Next came “Four Witnesses”, so named because it contains four different approaches to the same chord/melodic sequence -- the divergent retelling of the same events in the classic film “Rashoman” came to mind.  The percussive wah-wah pedal rhythms at the end of this movement were the last semi-improvised area in this composition.  Differences between performances differed only in slight rhythmic details; but like the previous movements, they are still awaiting that transcription.

 “Ghost Blues” and “Epiphany Machine” were the final pair of movements done in 1982, and they survived in my personal repertoire throughout the 1980’s, even after I’d stopped performing the entire 30 minute piece.  Although I was never really a Minimalist, many of my friends were, and I think that “Epiphany Machine” reflects that artistic environment, as well as my private habit at the time of occasionally gnawing on Bach’s Lute Suites (to no particularly presentable end).  The first notes of the “Four Witnesses” melody become a second theme in “Ghost Blues”, its counterpart in the 5 movement arch.  Although these latter two movements have been performed by several other guitarists, no one but myself has ever performed the entire work, which awaits my preparation of workable scores for “Steel Shower” and “Juggernaut”.
  ©2008 Scott Johnson. All rights reserved.
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