If you have heard of John Cage, chances are it is in reference to either his piece “4’33” or his “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano“. The CD recording of Prepared Piano I have is an out of print Denon release featuring Yuji Takahashi, but the Berman version is excellent as well.
The brilliant “4?33?” speaks directly to the way Cage saw music in the world – the piece is for any instrument and is based on the I Ching and the concept of chance. The instrumentalist is not to play the instrument during the performance. I saw it performed on piano, and the pianist simply stepped on the sustain pedal at the start of each movement and lifted his foot to mark the end. It is a controversial piece because it “completely removes both the composers and the artist from the process of creation”. In other words, aside from incidental noise the piece is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth (and just a couple of weeks past the twentieth anniversary of his death), the John Cage Trust has released ‘John Cage Piano’ for iPhone (Free) and iPad ($0.99), with an Android version ‘coming soon’.
Here is the description of the app:
Celebrate John Cage’s 100th birthday by playing the John Cage Piano app on your iPad. One of the many ingenious innovations of American composer/writer/artist John Cage was his creation of the “prepared piano”, in which he placed objects beneath and between the strings of a grand piano to create an entirely new instrument.
The sounds of John Cage’s prepared piano are now available for you to play on your iPad with this innovative app. Play meticulously sampled sounds of a piano prepared with the actual materials used by John Cage in the preparations for his Sonatas and Interludes (1946-48) as sampled under the supervision of the John Cage Trust.
Given that his ‘Sonatas and Interludes’ is one of my favorite pieces of 20th century classical music, I jumped on this right away, and had a great time messing with sounds and textures and … silence.
And explains the process used to ‘prepare’ a piano, which takes several hours: