The Wire


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

Pianist R Andrew Lee

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.

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