John Cage – Bacchanale for prepared piano (1940)

Composed in 1940 for a choreography by the American dancer Syvilla Fort, this was the first piece Cage composed for prepared piano. Cage and Fort were both working at the Cornish School in Seattle, Washington at the time. The room where the dance was to be performed was not large enough to allow for a percussion ensemble, but had enough space for a grand piano. Cage decided to try placing various objects on the strings of the instrument in order to produce percussive sounds, inspired by Henry Cowell’s experiments with extended piano techniques. The whole piece was finished in just three days. Twelve notes are prepared, mostly using weather strippings. In the score, in 11 cases out of 12, the performer is instructed to “determine position and size of mutes by experiment.”