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I like to think of The Chord Catalogue as a sort of natural phenomenon--something which has always been present in the ordinary musical scale, and which I simply observed, rather than invented. It is not so much a composition as simply a list. I have often tried to explain that my music is a reaction against the romantic and expressionistic musical past, and that I am seeking something more objective, something that doesn't express my emotions, something that doesn't try to manipulate the emotions of the listener either, something outside myself.
"Extreme and, one would think, extremely simple. A lesser man would have arranged those 8178 chords in some symphonically meaningful, or else quasi-random order, but Johnson proceeded methodically up the chromatic scale from two notes at a time, three, four, so on to 13....By the time we reached 10-note chords, the information overload was such that differences were hardly perceptible, a situation reminiscent of serial music. Far from being heavy-handed minimalism, The Chord Catalogue was a pointed lesson in music history and the relativity of perception." --Kyle Gann, Village Voice
Tom Johnson composed The Chord Catalogue in 1986 and has performed it numerous times around the world since then. This is the first recording. The score consists of a set of verbal instructions and is included in the CD booklet. As of the present time, no one but Johnson has ever mastered playing the piece.