When compensation takes the form of passion and satisfaction, instead of monetary remuneration, what is the impact on performance quality, commitment, and artistic freedom? If we could remove money from the equation by making sure artists get paid enough to do better than get by, what would that look like?
By virtue of our recording project, the Kepler Quartet has had a privileged window into the essentially spiritual quest in Ben Johnston’s music. Johnston embraces a richer way of being: to work towards pure, honest relationships with others by using a vertical, harmonic approach concentrating on perfect intervals which produce less discord, increased resonance, and maximum clarity. At age 90, a full fifteen years after he stopped writing music, Johnston has come to a place in his life where his main goal is to have a positive impact on his environment.
Just look at the names: new complexity, neo-romanticism, post-minimalism—three of the broadest trends in contemporary music, all with echoes of pastiche baked right into their labels. Clearly artists have always taken ideas and materials from other sources—how could we not?—but never before have we so celebrated the attribution of those sources.
Miles didn’t make Bitches Brew by himself; it was the product of a unique compositional collaboration between the trumpeter and his longtime, essential producer at Columbia Records, Teo Macero (1925-2008), an in-house composer, arranger, and producer for Columbia Records who also shaped and directed essential albums by Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett as well as a recording of music by Alan Hovhaness plus the soundtrack to The Graduate.