Sunday, September 20, 2009

John Cage - In a Landscape (1995)

| Avant-Garde | Experimental Piano |
| Contemporary Classical |

Even after his death, John Cage remains a controversial figure. Famously challenging the very notion of what music is, Cage remained on the leading edge of both playful and profound experimentalism for the greater part of his career, collaborating with and influencing generations of composers, writers, dancers, and visual artists. One of his best-known and most sonically intriguing innovations, the prepared piano, had become an almost commonplace compositional resource by the end of the twentieth century. Years before the invention of the synthesizer, he was in the forefront in the exploration of electric and electronic sound sources, using oscillators, turntables, and amplification to musical ends. He pioneered the use of graphic notation and, in employing chance operations to determine musical parameters, was the leading light for one cadre of the avant-garde that included Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, and Pauline Oliveros. Cage produced works of "performance art" years before the term was coined, and his 4'33'', in which the three movements are performed without playing a single note, takes a place among the most notorious touchstones of twentieth century music.

This album is a collection of some of his prepared piano works. "In a Landscape" is a dreamy song beautiful as hell. The tonal oddity of this piece is that all the notes are contained in two octaves. One of the two uses a mode based on B flat, while the other octave has only notes of a mode in the key of G. Shifts from one octave to another create a bitonal effect that creates a momentary impression of being out of tune, which gives In a Landscape a uniquely haunting quality. "Suite for Toy Piano" is highly influenced by the simplicity of Erik Satie's compositions. Cage uses incomplete scales and limit his toy piano to only five notes at some movements. Despite of all this limitation, the result is stunning. "Bacchanale" is my favorite from this album, a song that uses a highly prepared piano, full of bolts, nuts, washers, strips of paper and rubber muting objects attached to the piano strings, making every note sound completely unique.

Beyond beautiful.

Catalog: 09026 61980 2 (Catalyst)

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