Wednesday, 27 July 2016

John Cage - Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1951)

One of John Cage's best-known works, this suite of 20 pieces was composed 1946-48 and first recorded/released in 1951, played by Aremian-American pianist Maro Ajemain.  A friend of the composer, the work is also dedicated to her.

I first heard the Sonatas & Interludes some years ago in a late-90s Naxos recording, which didn't make a huge impression on me for whatever reason.  Picked up the Ajemian recording last year after the release of Aphex Twin's brilliant EP Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2, which wore its Cage influences on its sleeve to the point of almost sounding like it was directly quoting this work at times.

So its thanks to Richard D. James that I've found myself hooked on the Sonatas & Interludes for Prepard Piano.  The 'Prepared' part involves nuts, bolts, screws and other objects being inserted into the piano as fully directed by Cage in the score, but perfect adherence to the preparation table is not required -  "do it so that it seems right to you" in the composer's words.  Sounding percussive and forthright at some points, soft and meditative at others, these pieces are a perfect fusion of East and West (Indian philosophy being Cage's starting point for shaping the suite).  The unique piano tones are sometimes bell-like, sometimes like a minature gamelan, and always fascinating and beautiful.

Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

Previously posted at SGTG: Indeterminacy

5 comments:

  1. I have the 1983 Gerard Fremy record and have heard a couple of others but have always wanted to hear this original recording. Many thanks for that opportunity!

    -Brian

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  2. Thanks. I've only heard the Fremy version. Been dying to hear this original, nineteen fiddy one recording for god only knows how long...

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  3. Alan, can you tell me what version of this recording this is? I hear absolutely no vinyl artefacts at all which makes me think this might be either the 1995 CRI remaster or the 2006 Él Records release. Your artwork led me to expect the original Dial vinyl. Regardless, it's a great listen! Many thanks.

    -Brian

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    Replies
    1. hi Brian, it's taken from this CD set, as was my posting of Indeterminacy back in June:

      https://www.discogs.com/John-Cage-3-Original-Albums/release/9669060

      A bit sneaky I know using the original artwork - I just liked the covers! I've since become a bit more of a stickler for using artwork that matches the physical disc that I'm ripping.

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    2. Thanks for the info. I appreciate it.

      -Brian

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