The Wire


Early minimalist composition that inspired La Monte Young recorded and released for the first time

La Monte Young credited Dennis Johnson's 1959 piece November with inspiring The Well Tuned Piano, but no transcription of it existed until now. The only recording was a hiss-filled 100 minute long cassette (of a piece Young said could "theoretically" be six hours long). Kyle Gann has now constructed a score from the original cassette recording, which requires the performer (in this case pianist R Andrew Lee) to improvise against several pages of Gann's short musical score.

November was the magnum opus of a heavily abbreviated career, but one that left a largely uncredited mark on the development of minimalist composition. Nobody knows Johnson's whereabouts, he took himself out of radio contact years ago, and it's not known if a transcription of the piece ever existed. He also wrote a piece titled The Second Machine, but soon after abandoned music and went into computer science.

R Andrew Lee's performance of November is being released by Penultimate Press and Irritable Hedgehog as a 4CD box set. The piece will be performed by Lee in on 9 March at London's Cafe Oto, and Gann has written a piece about reconstructing the piece here. Listen to an excerpt below.