The intrepid Kepler Quartet is trying to finish their recording of the complete string quartets of Ben Johnston. Ben’s health is failing rapidly, it seems, and the project has taken on a race-against-time quality. This is possibly the most ambitious string quartet project in history. They’ve got the 6th, 7th, and 8th quartets to go, and the 7th has a reputation as the most difficult quartet ever written: the third movement, based on a 183-pitch row in the viola with no repetitions, employs more than 1200 pitches to the octave:
I haven’t heard the Eighth Quartet either; the Sixth, a lovely, 12-tone, just-intonation work with more than sixty pitches in its row matrix, was issued on vinyl back in the early 1980s. The expense is a big issue, and so the Kepler has started a kickstarter page to help out. They need to raise $15,000 by New Year’s Eve, and are just over a third of the way there at this writing. Perhaps you can give the underground history of music a Christmas present and help bring this phenomenal effort to fruition.