March 13, 2016
Celebrate composer Ben Johnston's 90th birthday on March 15
Ben Johnston
Ben Johnston

The American composer Ben Johnston has studied with Milhaud, Partch, and Cage, has an uniquely American voice, and has composed an impressive - and little-known - body of work. His microtonal string quartets are incredibly lush, surprisingly accessible and nearly impossible to play (but not for Kepler Quartet). Just listen...

Johnston's 90th birthday is on March 15. In April, Kepler Quartet releases the final volume of the recording of all ten of Johnston's string quartets on New World Records. Recording this three-CD collection has been a 14-year long odyssey for the ensemble. Ben Johnston himself speaks about it in this Kickstarter video from earlier this season.

Ben Johnston was born in Macon, Georgia in 1926 and began composing as a teenager. He studied with Darius Milhaud and John Cage, and was apprenticed to Harry Partch in the 1950's. His large body of compositions includes opera and music-theatre, music for dance, orchestral and chamber works, choral and solo vocal works, piano music, tape pieces, and indeterminate works. An enlightening interview with Bruce Duffie reveals much more about the man and his music.

Kepler Quartet worked closely with Johnston in recording the complete set of his string quartets, and in the process got to know both the music and the composer intimately. Please contact Gail Wein to request an interview with one of the members of the Kepler Quartet. You may also request an electronic or physical copy of Volume 1 or 2 of Johnston's string quartets performed by the Kepler Quartet. Volume 3 will be released by New World Records on April 8.

Kepler Quartet was formed in response to the enthusiastic audience and critics' reception of their world-premiere performance of Ben Johnston's String Quartet No. 10 in April of 2002.

Violinists Sharan Leventhal and Eric Segnitz, violist Brek Renzelman and cellist Karl Lavine found working together under Mr. Johnston's guidance so positive an experience that it eventually culminated in a Johnston 10-string quartet cycle recording project. The composer's steadfast belief in his system, and his generous confidence that the quartet could understand and achieve his musical aims were key factors in the success of this recording. For further information, please visit

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