Johnston, Benjamin

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Ben Johnston


Born: March 15, 1926

Country: Macon, Georgia, U.S.A.

Studies: College of William and Mary (B.F.A. 1948), Cincinnati Conservatory (M.F.A. 1949), Mills College (M.F.A. 1952)

Teachers: Darius Milhaud, Harry Partch, John Cage, Burrill Phillips, Robert Palmer

Johnston, Ben (b. March 15, 1926, Macon, Georgia). Esteemed American composer of mostly chamber, choral and vocal works that have been performed throughout the world.

Prof. Johnston earned his BFA at William and Mary College in 1949 and his MMus at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 1950 and then studied and worked with Harry Partch in Gualala, California. He also studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College, where he earned his MFA in 1952, and studied privately with John Cage in New York City in 1959–60.

His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1959). He has received commissions from the American Music Center, the Concord String Quartet, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Festival of Contemporary Arts of the University of Illinois, the Fromm Foundation, ISCM, the Kronos Quartet, the New Century Saxophone Quartet, vocalist Dora Ohrenstein, Polish Radio, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, guitarist John Schneider, pianist Roger Shields, and the Smithsonian Institution, among other ensembles, institutions, orchestras, and soloists.

Prof. Johnston is also active in other positions. He organized the première of The Bewitched by Harry Partch in 1957. He has written more than a dozen articles for the journals Perspectives of New Music and Source, among other publications.

He taught acoustics, composition and music theory at the University of Illinois from 1951–83, where he was a professor from 1967–83 and where he has been professor emeritus since 1983. He also served as chairman of the Music Planning Committee of its Festival of Contemporary Arts from 1962–65.

Smith Publications publishes most of his music.[1]

Works for Percussion

Concerto for Percussion (Johnston)Percussion Sextet; Piano
Diversion for FourPercussion Duo; Piano; Double Bass
Knocking Piece – Percussion Duo; Piano
Knocking Piece II – Percussion Duo; Electronics
PalindromesSnare Drum
Sleep and WakingPercussion Quintet