Head on over TODAY to MyAnonamouse.net for the BEST in Audiobook, E-books and ALL things for the Musician; Lick Library,sheet music, music books, instructional videos, etc. We will be CLOSING Open Registration SOON! IF you want to Register after this time, Please use the IRC link provided and join our Special INVITE CHANNEL.See you there! http://www.myanonamouse.netJohn Cage's Sonatas and Interludes have long been one of his most popular works (if popular means anything in the case of Cage). They are written for a piano prepared by inserting various objects onto the piano strings so as to partially dampen the sound in a variety of different ways. This preparation results in the piano becoming almost a one-man percussion orchestra (the comparison to Indonesian gamelan is useful, if oversimplistic). In addition, when the piano is prepared as Cage requests, each note has its own distinctive timbre as well as pitch, thus creating a link between these two musical elements.
The Sonatas and Interludes were inspired by Cage's study of Hindu aesthetics as discussed by Ananda Coomaraswamy, and were an attempt to create music based around the Hindu theory of the nine emotions (the "white" emotions of heroism, eroticism, mirth and wonder and the "black" emotions of fear, anger, sorrow and disgust, all tending towards the most important emotion, tranquility). The result was a collection of twenty single-movement pieces, lasting something over an hour in complete performances. The sixteen sonatas are mostly based on repetitive rhythms and brief, fragmentary modal melodies, while the four interludes tend to be rather more rhythmically varied than the sonatas.
There have been many recordings made of this set of works (the invaluable John Cage discography at http://www.johncage.info lists no fewer than 20 rival recordings), and it would be foolish to claim that Boris Berman's matches up to the best of them (Karis, Schleiermacher, Goldstein and Henck all have prior claims on the listener). In particular, Berman occasionally rushes the music, disturbing the intended tranquil feel, and his Russian-sounding espressivo playing in some of the sonatas seems distinctly at odds with Cage's aesthetic. I wonder if this recording was not made too soon, as Berman's second bite at the Cage cherry (a collection of miscellaneous prepared piano pieces recorded a year later and also available on Naxos), displays a distinctly greater empathy for the idiom.