Composer Tom Johnson rarely wrote musical pieces that existed for music's sake alone. Generally, they involved conceptual re-orientation on the part of the listener, often with language (particularly the language of self-reference) as the intermediary. With An Hour for Piano, the lovely, Satie-esque music is intended to be heard while the listener is reading Johnson's program notes which begin, "It is important that you try not to allow the program notes to distract you from concentrating on the music." Which, of course, they already have done. The notes continuously refer back and forth to the music, often repetitiously (one paragraph is repeated in its entirety several times; it begins, "This paragraph occurs several times in the program notes."), always provoking the listener to hear aspects of the composition differently depending what he/she has read or learned via the notes. It's a fascinating exercise in critical listening and the relationship of language to musical perception. Frederic Rzewski is the pianist, and the actual music shares an affinity with Rzewski's own modernist blend of romanticism and minimalism; it's attractive, repetitive and melodic -- arguably the perfect form of music to recede into the middle ground while reading program notes! For those intrigued by the nexus between language and music, Tom Johnson offers a wry and accessible entryway.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick