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SCOTT JOHNSON

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Scott Johnson biography
Hailing from New York City, modern composer Scott JOHNSON brings a rock sensibility to the modern experimental avant-garde. Born and raised in Wisconsin, he moved to New York in 1975, where he currently resides. Influenced by minimalist composers and such works as Steve Reich's Come Out (which used the gradual distortion and phasing of a single spoken phrase until it was unrecognizable and became music in itself), one defining characteristic of his work is using edited tapes of human speech as melodic building blocks for composition; he also frequently employs the electric guitar in his arrangements.

Released in 1986, his album "John Somebody" came to define his approach. Since 2007, he has released albums for Tzadik, John Zorn's label. In addition to his own albums, he has composed works for other ensembles, including the Kronos Quartet (the piece "How it Happens").

Scott Johnson official website

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SCOTT JOHNSON discography


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SCOTT JOHNSON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 2 ratings
John Somebody
1986
4.00 | 1 ratings
Patty Hearst
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Rock/Paper/Scissors
1996
4.00 | 1 ratings
Americans
2010

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SCOTT JOHNSON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Americans by JOHNSON, SCOTT album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Americans
Scott Johnson RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TheGazzardian
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars Prog from the opposite direction. Scott Johnson is a Classical Composer who believes integration of contemporary music is a vital part of classical music. Hence the inclusion of guitars and rock music elements, as well as studio manipulation. So like prog, this is a blend of rock and other genres, but instead if blending classical into rock, it's the opposite.

The other element if Scott's composition that is notable is the use of human dialogue to shape the music. Basing the music on pre- recorded speech gives it unique turns and twists.

On that note, the first composition, Americans, is the most notable and interesting here, featuring intense rhythms and heavy use of dissonant and abrupt instrumentation. Reminds somewhat of chamber rock acts like Rational Diet. The first ten seconds will hook you.

The three instrumental tracks are good but not as good as the vocal based tracks.

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 Patty Hearst by JOHNSON, SCOTT album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Patty Hearst
Scott Johnson RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

— First review of this album —
4 stars Like "John Somebody", I own only the original CD pressing of this album, so I don't have the ability to review the bonus track Boot Camp from the more recent release.

Because this is a motion picture soundtrack, this is much more atmospheric than Scott Johnson's previous album. In fact, the only piece that really resembles the earlier album is Mom Dad, where the film's star Natasha Richardson reads a letter from the captive Patty Hearst to her parents. Johnson then uses the cadence of Richardson's voice as the basis of a truly wonderful avant-garde track. There is also a slight refrain near the end of the album in Dad Mom, but in under a minute it is barely noticable.

The rest of the music, despite being a soundtrack, has some great work as well. Johnson has written some of his quirky guitar-based music for a small chamber orchestra, and much of it gets very exciting. It doesn't offer as much of Johnson's unique style as "John Somebody", but there is plenty here to love.

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 John Somebody by JOHNSON, SCOTT album cover Studio Album, 1986
5.00 | 2 ratings

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John Somebody
Scott Johnson RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

5 stars At the time that this album was originall released in 1986, Steve Vai was already known for his guitar imitation of first Frank Zappa's spoken voice, and then David Lee Roth's. Scott Johnson took a similar technique, and expanded it into something quite spectacular.

On the 4-part (I have the original, not the expanded version) piece John Somebody, Johnson took a number of recorded spoken word tapes, cut a few specific phrases, and used the speakers' own vocal inflections to develop intricate melodies. By splicing, looping and layering these tapes, he developed some backing tracks containing distinct melodies, upon which he added more layers of guitar, bass, electronics, percussion and woodwinds. The result is a set of pieces that sound otherworldly, but at the same time, eerily human.

What he has created is difficult to describe, but I do feel a slight comparison to Captain Beefheart,s band, around the time of "Shiny Beast" may be appropriate. He begins with a phrase, repeated a few times, until it begins to sound musical. He then begins adding guitar, then other instruments, until each piece is overflowing with lushness and intensity.

I must make a special note for Part 3 - Involuntary Songs. This piece is nothing less than brilliant. In this section, Johnson takes some tapes of a woman (or is it women?) laughing, and using his editing techniques, manages to come up with an incredible backing track that contains numerous themes and melodies, which he expertly embellishes with guitar.

On the last track of the album, No Memory, Johnson gives the same treatment to shorter tape edits, which come out as mere vocal noises. On this piece, he does more manipulation of the sounds, with harmonizers and pitch shifters. Here, the track he creates becomes as much a rhythm track as a musical accompaniment. But the sound is no less exquisite.

One of these days I have to get the expanded CD.

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