Friday, April 27, 2007

Five (Easy) Pieces part 3

John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

These pieces for "prepared piano" contrast starkly with his one work for "unprepared piano," in which the piano's just sitting there peacefully in a room until the performer lunges in from behind and dropkicks it. People who have only a casual acquaintance with John Cage couldn't really be blamed for believing that last sentence. Prepared piano refers augmenting, dampening, or otherwise messing with the strings inside to produce different timbres and attacks. I think the best un-theoretical way to describe it is that Cage builds his own alternate piano universe, possessing a rare and strange cosmos of sounds, melody, harmony, and rhythm. Not at all to be listened to on the regular, but not to be of those records that is sometimes the only thing. I usually put it on when I need to hear something but I can't stand the thought of all the emotional and theoretical baggage that comes with, say, TV on the Radio or Orchestra Baobab. I like (but don't own) this version. I do own this version, also very satisfying. Okay, "satisfying" might not be the word. What's that thing where after you experience something you feel kind of hollow and young and slightly hopeless? It's like that. People forget that music (and art) don't always have to make you feel good, or better, or sad, or guilty. That's like always drinking water, milk, or soda. There's more stuff out there to experience, some of it pretty complex.

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