Composed by John Cage between 1946 and 1948, “Sonatas and Interludes” for prepared piano is one of the most famous works of the composer and one of the works most admired by listeners and performers alike, holding a key position in his catalogue of works.
Several years earlier, Cage had already developed the technique of piano preparation to explore the possibilities of sound manipulation: Preparation tables preceding each of his pieces indicate which materials (e.g. screws, bolts, rubber, felt or plastic elements) have to be used and where they have to be placed between the piano strings. Each object, its size, strength, fixing method and position changes the pitch, volume, timbre and duration of the original piano sound.
In comparison with Cage’s earlier pieces, the preparation tables for the “Sonatas and Interludes” are comprehensive and accurate. The preparation, which takes the pianist from two and a half to three hours, encompasses more than half of all the strings of the piano. At first, Cage thus tried to achieve a specified sound image – an ideal which he later modified: “When I first placed objects between piano strings, it was with the desire to possess sounds (to be able to repeat them). But, as the music left my home and went from piano to piano and from pianist to pianist, it became clear that not only are two pianists essentially different from one another, but two pianos are not the same either. […] all led me to the enjoyment of things as they come, as they happen, rather than as they are possessed or kept or forced to be.”
co-production with Deutschlandradio