Cage - Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (I-III)

A brief set of revision cards for sonatas and interludes by John Cage for Edexcel Music A2 2012 Unit 6: Further Musical Understanding. 

  • Created by: Misha Mau
  • Created on: 12-06-12 15:11

Context/Background information

  • John Cage developed the use of percussion, used elements of change, explored new sound sources and notation adn used eastern philosphy in his music. 
  • Cages used mathematical proportions to govern both large and small scale dimension 'micro-macrocosmic' used in First Construction (in Metal)
  • Inserted items into piano like bolts + screws between strings
  • Sonatas and interludes written (1946-48)
  • referred to as intentionally expressive compositions 
  • Permenant emotions of indian aesthetics: heroic, ******, wonder, rejoicing, anciety, fear, anger and loathing. 
  • Cage didn't specify how he represented emotions but suggested each movement represents an emotion that towards the end becomes calm and tranquil. 
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Performing Forces + Handling

  • Every performance would be different because pianos different 
  • would be unable to posses sound he creates (Zen philosophy)
  • Four ways in which the preparation of piano affected sound was: 
    • quietens it
    • changes it timbre
    • splits into two or three sounds
    • shortens duration
  • There is no strict plant to be followed - if you enjoy playing it then do what seems right to you. 
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  • Chords (sonata I b1)
  • Monophony (Sonata II b1)
  • Two part homo-rhythm (Sonata II b10)
  • treble movement over static or ostinato accompaniment (Sonata II b17/ Sonata III b1)
  • layered textures (Sonata II b30)
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  • 20 movements organised after composition: every 4 sonatas has an interlude 
  • Most of the sonatas are in Binary form
  • duration of music micro-macrocosmic structure like fractals in nature and art
  • Sonata I: Micro patten 28 crotchets, rhythmic groupings 4-1-3 repeated 4-2 repeated, 'macro' scheme is times groupings by 7. 
  • Sonata II: micro pattern lasts 31 crotchets, composed of groupings 1-1/2 repeated, 1-1-3/8 repeated, 'macro' scheme times groups by 31. 
  • Sonata III: micro pattern last 34 crotchets, groupings 1-1-3 1/4- 3 1/4, macro scheme times groupings by 34. 
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Tonality + Harmony

  • tonal relationships of scale and key are absent
  • music doesn't contrast key 
  • passages do repeat, phrases do approach cadence points, and pitched notes do exist
  • no marking out of cadences by harmonic progression
  • continuous flow of harmonic progression is not in these pieces
  • some harmonic moments like G7 chords at opening of sonata I and parallel chords at b20 sonata I. 
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  • some repetition of pattens with short statements and phrases separated by rests 
  • arch shape melodies sonata I b15-16. 
  • limited number of pitches and conjunct movement
  • decorative use of grace notes and rhythmic embellishment
  • rhythms not referred back to 
  • patterns place unpredictably against metre and irregular groupings 
  • stresses displaced and metre changes frequently
  • irregular metres 
  • periods of silence 
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