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David C. Johnson

David C. Johnson American composer

American composer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American composer
Is Musician Composer
From United States of America
Type Music
Gender male
Birth 30 January 1940, Batavia
Age: 80 years
The details

David C. Johnson (born January 30, 1940 in Batavia, New York), is an American composer, flautist, and performer of live-electronic music.
David Johnson studied, among other places, at Harvard University (M.A. in composition 1964), with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and at the Cologne Courses for New Music in 1964–1965, 1965–1966, and 1966–1967 (Stockhausen 1971, 198–204).
In 1966–67 he was an independent collaborator at the Electronic Studio of the WDR, where he assisted Karlheinz Stockhausen with the production of his electronic work Hymnen. He also operated the live-electronics in the first performances of the chamber-orchestra version of Stockhausen’s Mixtur (1967), and in the Darmstadt collaborative works directed by Stockhausen, Ensemble in 1967 and Musik für ein Haus in 1968 (Gehlhaar 1968, 39; Ritzel 1970, 50; Stockhausen 1971, 213 and 217).
In 1968 he was also instructor of electronic music at the Cologne Courses for New Music (Stockhausen 1971, 206). From its formation in Cologne in 1968, he collaborated with the group formed by bass guitarist Holger Schüring (later known as Holger Czukay), keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, guitarist Michael Karoli and drummer Jaki Liebezeit in an experimental beat group that would later be known as Can. He left in 1969, disappointed at growing rock influences.
In 1970 he performed in a number of Stockhausen’s “process” works (Spiral, Pole, Expo) at the German Pavilion of Expo 70, the Osaka World’s Fair (Kurtz 1992, 178; Stockhausen 1971, 175–81). After Osaka, together with Johannes Fritsch and Rolf Gehlhaar, he founded in 1971 the Feedback Studio in Cologne and became a technical collaborator in the Studio for Electronic Music of the Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht.
In the early 1970s, Johnson joined the Oeldorf Group, a musicians' cooperative, with Peter Eötvös, Mesías Maiguashca, Gaby Schumacher (cello) and Joachim Krist (viola), who organized a Summer Night Music series. Performances were held in the barn attached to the group's farmhouse in Oeldorf, near Kürten (Kurtz 1992, 200).
In 1972, with Helmut Lachenmann, he coordinated the Composition Studio at the International Vacation Course for New Music in Darmstadt. He remained Technical Director of the Feedback Studio until 1975, when he moved to Basel to become Director of the Electronic Studio of the Musikakademie there, a post he held until 1985. He now lives in Switzerland.


  • Three Pieces for string quartet (1966)
  • Dort wo wir leben, electronic music for the documentary film by Kazimierz Karabasz (1967)
  • TeleFun, electronic music (1968)
  • Ton-Antiton, electronic music (1968)
  • Prorganica, sound installation (1970)
  • Organica I–IV, sound installations (1970–72)
  • Triangles, for flute, clarinet, cello, and 3 ring modulators (1975)
  • Ars Subtilior Electrica, electronic music, realised in the Electronic Studio of the Musikakademie Basel (1977)
  • Drop Fruit, for tape, live-electronics, slides and accompanying events (1984)
  • Of burning a candle, for tape and slides (1985)
  • Imprisoned Fruit, Cybernetic Soundspace (1989/90)
  • Earth Wisdom, for tape, live-electronics and slides (1990)

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