A world premiere of Tom Johnson’s new composition for the Gandini Juggling company. Based on minimal tones and mathematical algorithms executed through virtuosic juggling techniques, the piece evolves through complex musical structures. The juggling balls, each with its own built-in audio synth, were custom designed at STEIM for this piece by Byungjun Kwon and Luuk Schipperheyn.
In 2009, composer Tom Johnson came to STEIM with a request to build an interactive system for his composition with jugglers. For more than a year, STEIM engineers worked closely with the composer and the juggling team to develop a unique instrument specific to the piece. The result is a sounding juggling ball with sensors to detect movement and impact and a built-in audio synth that can produce a rich variety of sounds.
“One-dimensional tilling is becoming increasingly important in two domains: music and juggling. The goals and notations are quite different in these two fields, however, so bringing together the finding on both sides can lead to new applications and even some new mathematical generalizations. …Here music and juggling will come together more than ever, because the jugglers will be throwing balls that emit particular notes whenever they are caught.” From Tom Johnson’s lecture Tiling Notes and Juggling Balls
Tom Johnson, born in Colorado in 1939, received B.A. and M.Mus. degrees from Yale University, and studied composition privately with Morton Feldman. After 15 years in New York, he moved to Paris, where he has lived since 1983. He is considered a minimalist, since he works with simple forms, limited scales, and generally reduced materials, but he proceeds in a more logical way than most minimalists, often using formulas, permutations, predictable sequences and various mathematical models.
Johnson is well known for his operas: The Four Note Opera (1972) continues to be presented in many countries. Riemannoper has been staged more than 30 times in German-speaking countries since its premier in Bremen in 1988. More recent projects include 360 Chords, premiered by the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchester (2008), Vermont Rhythms, premiered by the ensemble Klang (2009), Tilework, a long series of pieces for soloists and ensembles, Same or Different, a piano piece commissioned by the Dutch radio (2004), Combinations for String Quartet, premiered in Berlin on the MärzMusik festival (2004), as well as scores such as Kirkman’s Ladies, Networks, Septet, and 55 Chords, mathematical pieces derived from combinatorial designs.
Johnson received the French national prize in the victoires de la musique in 2001 for Kientzy Loops. The Juggling Sound Balls where also nominated for Best Practice by Virtueel Platform (link).
The Gandinis have grown from a small-scale experimental company to an umbrella organisation creating and producing juggling performances. Since its early years, the company has created performances which are seminal in redefining what a juggling performance could be, including contemporary dance and theatre.
In spite of the constant traveling and performing, the Gandinis keep an undiminished enthusiasm for making juggling special.
“We were hushed before beauty, gasping at slow amazing things that float and glow … The Gandinis made a calmer, better place of the South Bank. Magical, simply magical…” Tales from the South Bank (2009) http://www.gandinijuggling.com