TOM JOHNSON – Orgelpark Color Chart


Despite the friendship with Eliane Radigue and Phill Niblock (who, reportedly, were pleased with his decision of writing a one-note composition for four organs) Tom Johnson states that he will probably depart – without returning – from this sonic area. I am not overly inconsolable after listening several consecutive times to this disc, which comes adorned by a fine sleeve containing a thick booklet meticulously indicating the settings needed for the instruments to perform the score. The work is here presented in a live rendition (Amsterdam 2010); the organs were played by Geerten Van De Wetering, Hans Van Haeften, Jeroen Koopman and Dorien Schouten.

So, one asks, why oh why Johnson’s ever-rational mind decided to conceive something that – excluding perhaps three chunks of thirty seconds each – is as boring as the proverbial drying paint on the wall? Sincerely, no answer has been found to date. The dispersion of a single note through different octaves – sometimes alone, elsewhere in parallel immobility – never elicits the psychophysical response that was expected once the premises were known (and having admired much of Johnson’s past production, including the feared-by-almost-everybody “mathematically cold” compositions).

A superficially potent consonant resolution following many minutes of non-vibrating fixed pitches and fairly wearisome stretches of “nearly nothing happening” (unless you count some idiot’s mandatory cough in a couple of instances) become punishing if not an ounce of inner shivering can be felt. Even the final applause seems to betray an audience liberated by the oppression, not resembling a genuine sign of approval at all. We just hope that naming names was not a bait (indeed the composer’s status would not deserve the ignominy of such a trick), but Orgelpark Color Chart’s weight and value are infinitesimal when compared with anything produced by the “friends”. Seriously, I’d be able to churn out twenty “opuses” like this – or better – per year. Won’t anybody nominate me for a grant?

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