Ben Johnston doesn’t follow the rules of music. Sure, he’s got degrees from two colleges and a conservatory. But from an early age, Johnston heard music differently. When he was growing up in Georgia, he questioned the standard scales he was taught in school. “I played by ear and I invented my own chords,” he says.
In Western music, we’re taught that there are set notes in scales, but there is actually an infinite number of pitches in between those notes. They’re called microtones, and those are the notes Johnston likes to work with.