Scott Johnson Composer

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The Illusion Of Guidance (2002) 10.00
clar, cello, double bass, e. guitar, piano, marimba/perc.

Commissioned by the Bang On A Can All-Stars, with support from the New York State Council on the Arts.  Premiered Feb 9/02, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC.

available on CD: “Americans” - Scott Johnson – Tzadik Records

Notes on the Music

Sometimes a piece will seem to write itself, and when this happens I’m always happy to alter my plans and obey orders. From its beginnings as a sketch for an electric guitar quartet, this piece led me off at unexpected angles without hesitation, and snapped quickly back into focus after numerous interruptions.  Artists having this experience will often talk about feeling like a conduit or a vehicle; a passive delivery system for their work.  That’s how this piece felt, and it set me wondering where that kind of feeling comes from.  A superstitious interpretation might take the usual charming but child-like approach: a big strong Something is downloading data into my small (but apparently rather worthy!) self.  But a person can be a repository without help from a ghostly Depositor.  Even our most personal creations are dependent on an intricate substructure of learned and inherited patterns, and most of our attitudes are individualized copies of the shared ideas of our culture.  Just as we are the temporary vessels of our DNA, so we are hosts for ideas.  They travel between us like viruses, replicating themselves in the stream of individual minds that flows towards the future. 

And so an artist, like anyone else, is quite literally a channel for accumulated knowledge, as well as the carrier of a particular version of the world.  Thus a feeling of being guided is not a metaphor, or evidence of otherworldliness: it’s actually quite accurate for a social primate to feel like a conduit.  This worldly, naturalistic, and physical way of viewing creativity gives me a sense of mystery and pleasure that mysticism can’t provide.  The music is arriving from a mental wildlife refuge that may be incompletely mapped, but is unquestionably real.

  ©2008 Scott Johnson. All rights reserved.
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