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The composer in the world today. The School of Music and the radio service of the University of Illinois I invite you to listen to another program in the series. The composer in the world of today. Comment and illustrations on 20th century American music by an American composer. Conducting the series is Berle Phelps professor of music at the University of Illinois and an internationally fame composer. The composer in the world of today is produced and recorded by W I L L University of Illinois radio service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcast. Today Mr. Phillips will discuss an unusual trio. Now the composer in the world of today. And here is Beryl Philips the music we will hear
today. Here's a trio for piano flute and oboe. You know itself a little out of the ordinary because of the complete absence of any string instrument in the ensemble with the piano. It was composed in 1954 by Hunter Johnson a composer who in his career in music is like history oh out of the ordinary in practically every age composers have tended to be highly mobile as a foreign travels of Handel and Scarlatti would indicate or the peregrinations of Mozart should tell us composers have often been the foremost protagonists in spreading culture far and wide and as a result music is the least parochial of all the arts. It is especially true today that composers wherever born will ultimately group themselves around the great centers where there is a highly active musical life in the United States this means in the largest cities starting with New York or throughout the country in the neighborhood of colleges and universities. In many ways a composer We will discuss today hundred Johnson has successfully eluded this pattern. He was born near Benson
North Carolina and still lives there today. He has otherwise had a similar background to that of other American composers of his age study at a large music school. In his case the Eastman School of Music fellowships the pre-Roman Guggenheim an extensive performance and some publication. He conformed for a while to the usual pattern in teaching composition and universities at Winnipeg and at Cornell. But this has formed a very much smaller proportion of his time than is the case with most other American composers. Several years ago Mr Johnson designed and built with his own hands a small house and studio on the ancestral farm in North Carolina and has since done a good deal of writing in this place. The point of dollars per ration about one American composer staying in his birthplace is that with hundred Johnson the fact has assumed a primary and emotional significance basic to his way of writing music. It is not that he wishes to be or is parochial. He is not. It is not that he is naive and inexperienced about the world at large. He has had experience with a good part of that world. It is a
complex matter but might be stated something like this. Hunter Johnson believes in the magic of place the most magic to him is evidently where he was born and where he chooses to live. Because of the sensitivity he can do his best work there and that is an end to it. All this may or may not have a bearing on what kind of music a composer writes. It is in this direction we may find some interesting things today in Mr Johnson's trio for piano flute and oboe. The work is in three movements the first and last being the most elaborate and point of formal organization but formal organization to this composer does not mean intricate twists and turns of formal logic but rather an easy natural relationship between the various parts of the work as a whole. There is a noticeable lack of hysteria in this music in the moments of intensity are well controlled and never allowed to usurp for along the flow of musical thought. Thus the first and last movements are evenly balanced in point of duration and point of content. There are no heroic gesturing and no huge extremes of contrast. The second
movement contains the only obviously and basically different texture in comparison with the rest of the piece. Here the movement starts out with three voice counterpoint among the three instruments. It is characteristic of the composer that he does not attempt any of the grand contrapuntal effects even then. That is the use of cannon or a fugal procedures. His counterpoint is functional and simply forms what texture there is and what rhythmic movement there is. And besides it does not take him long to abandon any strictness in favor of a free section. When it was said a few sentences ago that the first and last movements are the most elaborate and point of formal organization. What was meant then was that these movements contain more material in each. Then does a second movement the composer has invented elements of contrast with each other in tempo range and texture whereas in the second movement the point is not so much the invention of markedly different elements but the control and development of fewer elements. Thus the outside movements have the problems of balancing slow
and fast rich and thin texture and high and low ranges in the solution of these problems of comparatively intricate formal organization can easily be felt. But whatever the differences in compositional procedure there may be between the various movements all movements have in common a harmonic style of characterizes this work as well as others Mr Johnson perhaps is best known composition as the music for the dance created by Martha Graham called Letter to the world. Despite the interval of time it separated the composition of the dance and the present trio and despite the radically different medium each one represents there is still a recognizable signature of this particular composer and both where it lies mostly is in his harmonic preferences. It might be described as a kind of bitter sweetness that he can obtain by the use of chords of four or five notes in which there is a mildly dissonant unresolved element. Other elements are found in the trio that can be heard in his other works are certain
leaning in rhythmic movement harmonic selection and melodic line toward the blues. The use of faster and more accented kinds of jazz movement particularly in the first movement of this trio. Moderation in the use of extreme high registers for the two would win instruments but a partiality towards a lower register chords on the piano keyboard. Hunter Johnson is an accomplished pianist. His treatment of that instrument in the trio reflects his natural talent for it and his thinking about it. One might say that he considers the piano at least in chamber music like the present trio to be a melodic instrument as well as one having great potentials for color and percussion. But again as in so many other facets of his art he shows a quality of restraint that is refreshing in the modern world. Perhaps it is this latter quality restraint that Hunter Johnson has managed to convey in the most convincing fashion in his music. He has often been compared to other Southern artists in different fields by those who have written about his music. The
name of William Faulkner occurs most frequently but to the present commentator this comparison is hard to support and might have arisen simply because hundred Johnson was born in the south and continues to live there and thus superficially resembles other southerners particularly writers. It may be that what living at home has done for him more than anything else is to have created for him a serene atmosphere in which he can be himself more surely than can most other composers of his age. Here is a trio for flute oboe and piano by a hundred Johnson performed by Charles Delaney flute Ed Williams oboe and Stanley Fletcher piano. There are three movements Allegro confocal andante stereo also and Allegro molto.
Let her. Through. Let's. Move.
Who. The are.
The A. Good one.
What. To do.
That was a trio for flute oboe and piano 100 Johnson performed by Charles that on the flute and Williams oboe and Stanley Fletcher piano an unusual trio in his instrumentation. It is a product of a composer who works and lives in an unusual corner of the world of today. Just heard an unusual trio another program in the series the composer in the world today conducting the series is burled Phillips Professor of Music at the University of Illinois and an internationally famous composer. The composer in the world today was produced and recorded by Kenneth Cutler. Music supervisor of the radio service of the University of Illinois under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NOAA radio network.
Composer in the world of today
An unusual trio
Producing Organization
University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, "An Unusual Trio," focuses on a trio consisting of piano, flute, and oboe.
Other Description
How the composer of today sees the contemporary world around him. Interviews, commentary and musical illustration provide a better picture of the modern composer. The series is hosted by Burrill Phillips, composer and professor of music at the University of Illinois.
Broadcast Date
Composers--United States--20th century.
Media type
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Host: Phillips, Burrill
Performer: Fletcher, Stanley
Performer: Williams, Ed
Producer: Gouds, Moyra
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-42-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:34
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Chicago: “Composer in the world of today; An unusual trio,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 13, 2022,
MLA: “Composer in the world of today; An unusual trio.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 13, 2022. <>.
APA: Composer in the world of today; An unusual trio. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from