concerto for prepared piano
By 1950 Cage had arrived at a style that celebrated emptiness. Paradoxically, by letting go any strong self-expression, he discovered a truer musical voice. His next major work, the Concerto for prepared piano and chamber orchestra, was to explicitly present this release from self-expression.
Introduction to a series of posts on John Cage’s musical and spiritual path of the 1940s and early 1950s. To understand his taking up of chance in 1951, you have to understand this journey, and to fully understand the journey, you must be able to see it as a journey into both musical silence and inner silence.
All composers endure bad performances of their music. It’s always demoralizing and undermines self-confidence. Some solace can be taken in the knowledge that this experience is universal: it happens to all composers, the famous and the obscure, and at all points in their careers. This point was driven home to me recently when I discovered John Cage, in conversation with Morton Feldman, describing the impact of a bad performance of his Concerto for prepared piano.