Compositions by Wesley Allan Johnson
(For Wesley Allan Johnson's popular-inspired music and arrangements, please see the "Main" HOME page.)
Theme and Variations on "Jong Jong Inai" (2018)
"Jong Jong Inai" is a Malaysian folk song. The director of the UiTM Guitar Ensemble commissioned a theme and variations on this song. The variations are largely stylistic and range from waltz, 7/8, swing, ragtime, gamelan, and fugue.
Performed by the Universiti Teknologi MARA Guitar Ensemble
An Announcement? (2007, rev. 2014)
Is this a composition? That's what the people attending the Birmingham New Music Festival were pondering in 2014.
Sedap Cycle (2015-2017)
Based on the 6 potential meals a day Malaysians may eat (breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper), this cycle of compositions in progress uses the diverse cultural background of the food and culture to create a multi-movement work that is truly inspired by Malaysia
All movements performed by Tham 2 Goh (Dr. Tham Horng Kent and Dr Yen-Lin Goh).
Movement 1 Nasi Lemak (breakfast): a spicy dish common eaten for breakfast. When I first saw the dish, I thought the spicy red sauce (sambal) was tomato sauce and served much more than I should have. The resulting pain of the spiciness is reflected through the tone clusters near the beginning, in an atonal rendering of the rhythms of the Malay dance known as a joget. As I slowly learn the right portions to eat it, I reveal a song in more conventional terms largely inspired by the music of the Malay dance known as a zapin. Towards the end, the spiciness returns as I frequently run out drink, reflected by the Caribbean inspired rhythms (what I associate with spiciness) and the return of the tone clusters, culminating in a loud, sigh of relief when I finish the food.
Movement 2, Morning Tea. In Malaysia, the "tea" will serve tea in the British sense, but also include non-British items like curry puffs or rice-based cakes. In this movement, I start with a sound similar to Mozart or Haydn and slowly incorporate music inspired by lagu asli ("original music" a local music itself a mix of Malay and outside influences), punctuated at the end by the pianists emulating the rebana by striking the piano body.
Movement 3, Nasi Campur (lunch). Nasi campur ("mixed rice") is the most common thing available at lunchtime. It is usually self-served and contains a variety of meats, vegetables, sauces, and drinks. Because of this, I was inspired to create a composition that could be different each time, inspired by the musical dice in the classical era and aleatoric/chance music in the 20th century. This version was chosen by the performers!
Movement 4, Afternoon Tea. Similar to Morning tea, it starts out like a European style—in this case, a Bach minuet—and concludes like a joget. To put a twist on the piece, I ended with an "unbalanced" joget in 5/8.
Movement 5, Char Kuey Teow (dinner): a noodle dish created by Malaysian Chinese groups. This piece uses the traditional Hokkien opera tune "Cuey Zhaw" as a fantasy. It starts with music inspired by the sheng (Chinese mouth organ), and later shifts through Malaysian gamelan (which uses the same scale as a lot of traditional Chinese music), then to blues and salsa to represent my interaction as an American.
Movement 6 iRoti Canai (supper): an Indian flatbread very popular in Malaysia as breakfast or a late night meal. The music is heavily inspired by Indian Classical music with improvisation sections, followed by a medium rhythmic section, concluding the entire section with a lively, fast section. There are elements of Malaysian gamelan and the two-note motif found through is inspired by the two gongs of mak yong.
Alternate version (String Quartet) (rev. 2019)
An orchestral composiion inspired by the "scherzo" movement of a classical symphony intertwined with the music of an Irish jig. The piece gradually progresses from a tonally ambiguous beginning to a very modal Irish jig at the end.
The Twain Meet (2011-12)
for banjo, shamisen, and orchestra
A large-scale work with sections inspired by historical development of each instrument. Inspirations arise from the Persian setar, West African akonting, Indian sitar, Chinese sanxian, Dixieland banjo, Nagauta shamisen, Irish tenor banjo, Tsugaru shamisen, and bluegrass banjo.
Spacious Density (2011)
for flute and banjo
A piece inspired mainly from the shamisen and shakuhachi, combining Japanese scales and rhythms with a ambiguously atonal approach.
John Chow Seymour - flute, Wesley Johnson - banjo
Haole Cycle (2011)
for baritone and ukulele
A song cycle of several short humorous poems written regarding my observations as a haole (white person) living in Hawaii.
1. 'Aina Haina
2. Weather in Honolulu
3. Critters 1: Brown Insect
4. Ono 1: Spam Sushi
5. Critters 2: Must Love Ants
6. Ono 2: Plate Lunch
Padraic Costello - baritone, Chris Adachi - ukulele
Clarinet Sonata (2011)
for clarinet and piano
A relatively traditional composition with titles of the movements affixed after each's composition as a soft of self-analysis.
1. "Bali Rocktatonic" - essentially, a combination of Balinese gamelan rhythmic techniques, rock piano techniques, and an almost exclusive use of the octatonic scale.
2. "Messiaenic Berg Watching" - an exercise in a relatively consonant tone row with many Messiaen-like bird-like flourishes in the clarinet.
3. "The Jazz Crutch" - many times when I am out of ideas, I inject jazz and blues techniques into a piece.
Micah Masuno - clarinet, Megumi Kurachi - piano