This work compromise six preludes for piano and tape. Prelude six can be performed with either concert grand piano, or toy piano – both versions are included here. The toy piano version has an extended improvisation, by Kate, at the end.
In 2010, on a dark Siberian-like winter’s night, the pianist Kate Ryder introduced me to the amazing sonorities of the prepared piano, and the methods of John Cage. After the workshop, I composed a one-minute piece for Kate, which she liked.
We then decided to work together: me composing Kate a piece, and Kate performing that piece. The music would use, in some way, prepared piano. I toyed with a variety of notions, including using the exact same preparations that John Cage used in ‘Sonatas and Interludes’. Piano preparations can take a very long time. So in the end, the most practical thing to do, given that I’m a virtually unknown composer, without the resources that Cage could leverage, was to put the preparations on a ‘tape part’, that the piano plays alone with. This sort of thing is very common in pop music, so why not here?
Lots of preparation sonorities have been used, all from Kate’s very own piano, including: ‘mutes’, ‘gongs’ and ‘lid-slams’. Other sounds, too, are included like ‘silent’ room ambient recordings, assorted sounds from Kate’s music room, and if you listen carefully you’ll hear Kate’s cat! These ambient ‘silences’ form one element of the resonant texture, alongside spectral microtones, as well as resonant treatments and digital signal processes.
Initially, I thought about calling the work ‘On Sensations of [micro]Tone’ a homage to Helmholtz. But, when I explained that I had derived the rhythmic material of one of the preludes from the number and frequency of cars passing a cactus plant that sits spikily on my windowsill, “You should call it On Sensations of Cactus!” Kate exclaimed. So I did.
released March 9, 2016
Pianist: Kate Ryder
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