Scott Johnson Composer

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The Pietist And The Hedonist (2000-2) 15.30
The Pietist
The Hedonist
flute, clar/bass clar, violin, cello, piano, percussion

Commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation for the New Millennium Ensemble.  Premiered May 12/02, Merkin Hall, NYC

The Pietist

The real workings of the world, wondrous but unforgiving to small things, loom as threat and doubt to one who insists on being at the center of all stories.  Evading the evidence of the senses, pious denial tells the inherited tale again and again, warding off vastness and chill with the familiar warmth of a half-understood formula: free of proof, garbled by time, but smooth to the touch.

The Hedonist

The specialist in forgetful delight seeks immersion in the instinctive depths of each moment, hoping never to awaken from a string of small eternities.  But time grows short, and it costs more and more to outrun memory, and keep one’s eyes off the inevitable and impartial future.

Notes on the Music

“The Pietist”  and “The Hedonist” are the first in a projected series of pieces which imagine various characters confronting their own mortality, each featuring one of the instruments.  Our pious cello, after repeated attempts to settle into a serene chorale are sabotaged by recurrent doubts, is finally overtaken by panic, before subsiding into the indifferent background machinery of the universe.  Our aging Casanova bass clarinet, unable to keep his stumbling seductive skills in synch any longer, spins out on the floor for one last danse macabre.

I think of these characters as broad personality types, less like modern individuals than medieval allegorical categories; of the sort once used to represent “humours,” or “virtues,” or some such arbitrary parsing of the world.  The sound of the 20th century “Pierrot + percussion” sextet seemed to me the perfect vehicle for this, with its ability to both hint at archaic textures with the winds and strings, and create driving ostinatos rooted in the piano and percussion

  ©2008 Scott Johnson. All rights reserved.
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