The Prepared Piano

American composer John Cage (1912-1992) represented the type of eternally questing artist who, as soon as he solved one problem, moved on to the next problem or series of problems. He showed an early interest in non-Western musical scales and learned a great deal about them from his mentor, Henry Cowell.

Cage’s intense interest in rhythm led him to explore possibilities in the use of percussion instruments. He soon realized that the traditional dichotomy between consonance and dissonance had yielded to a more modern opposition between music and noise. Cage’s study of percussive rhythm pointed him toward an invention that he liked to call “prepared piano.”

The preparation was achieved by the insertion of nails, nuts, bolts, and screws along with rubber, wood and leather between the strings at certain points on a grand piano. The resulting sound was a very complex myriad of sounds that sounded like a rhythm section group from Java called a gamelan. John Cage wrote several compositions for the prepared piano and his 1946-1948 work entitled Sonatas and Interludes is commonly recognized as the best of these compositions.

Author: The Artist

Artist, Designer & Photographer

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