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Dogs, Trains and a Piano: How Austin Sounds Inspired a New Album

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson in his studio. Johnson originally came to Austin to attend The University of Texas at Austin.

Many people the world over are inspired by the 'Austin sound.' But Dallas native and composer Ben Johnson found his inspiration in the sounds of Austin. Literally.

In fact, "The Sounds of Austin, Texas" is the title of his new album – a collection of impressionistic pieces inspired by his adopted hometown, where he studied music in college. Johnson considers his latest album a collection of love songs to Austin. 

Johnson mixes field audio recordings from sites all over the Austin area with his own custom piano compositions, each dedicated to a particular place.  

"What inspired me to do this project was really the peace I found in Austin," Johnson says. "It wasn't just the beautiful nature, but the people, establishments and feel of the city that inspired the album."

His album takes listeners to iconic Austin destinations such as Barton Springs and Red Bud Isle.

"If you go to Barton Springs and close your eyes, you hear kids screaming, splashing, murmuring of conversations and people jumping off the diving board. I recorded in the evening, and even the insects are like a symphony."

Johnson also included a track highlighting MoPac, a daily destination for many Austinites.

"The MoPac one is about the road, and the train. I once went to a concert at the Long Center, and I remember seeing the train going across the bridge over Town Lake as the sun was setting," Johnson said.  Though the commute on MoPac can be a nightmare for many, Johnson says he loves it nonetheless just "because it's a part of Austin, really; I'm hoping it'll resonate with some other people, too."

The Austin-based composer publishes and performs his works as the Ben Johnson Music Factory.

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
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