Longform Editions acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land upon which we operate.

Longform Editions
A gallery for listening

Chuck Johnson is a California-based composer, producer, and musician. He approaches his work with an ear towards finding faults and instabilities that might reveal latent beauty, with a focus on pedal steel guitar, experimental electronics, alternate tuning systems, and composing for film and television. Recordings of his work have been published by VDSQ, Thrill Jockey, Temporary Residence, Kompakt, Ghostly, and Three Lobed, among others.

Artist notes:

In the summer of 2022 I spent a month developing new music for the 1968 Holtkamp pipe organ in the Mills College Chapel in Oakland, California. I timed this residency for June of that year so that I could document the sound and tuning quirks of that instrument as well as the stunning wooden and glass structure that houses it during the final weeks before Mills College officially became part of Northeastern University. Although the campus and the Chapel are still there, the distinguished 150 year history of the Mills Music Department effectively came to an end that summer. 

My time with the Mills organ resulted in two durational compositions, one of which I have re-worked here as the Cypress Suite. In keeping with the collaborative spirit of Mills Music, the original solo organ composition has been expanded into a small ensemble piece, featuring two fellow Mills alumnae – pianist Marielle Jakobsons and vocalist Kristine Barrett – as well as composer and improvisor Patrick Shiroishi on reeds.

My intention with Cypress Suite is to use duration, intonation and repetition in order to open the listener’s perception of time. In contrast to the accelerations that happen during the first third of the piece, I find that the movement of time slows to an almost imperceptible crawl as the pipe organ becomes the sole voice in the last ten minutes, narrowing into a still stream and ending on the same note that the piece emerges from. What began in 2022 as a meditation on transition and loss took on an added weight as I finalised the mix during the early days of the horrific assault on Gaza in late 2023.

Durational works can relieve the listener of any obligation to interpret a narrative arc. And when long sustained tones are part of the arrangement, I find that the listening experience is more akin to being inside a physical structure. Details can emerge and ask for attention, but they can also recede back into the architecture of the sound, at which point other details may become focal points.

Chuck Johnson: organ, pedal steel guitar, synthesizers, treatments
Kristine Barrett: voice
Marielle Jakobsons: piano
Patrick Shiroishi: tenor saxophone and clarinet
Composed, produced, and mixed by Chuck Johnson
Mills Chapel organ recorded by The Norman Conquest
Music published by Sruti Music c/o Mute Song (ASCAP)