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Work Title
Suite for Toy Piano
Composed in 1948. Premiered in Black Mountain, N.C., August 20, 1948.
Ensemble Type
Work Length
8 minutes
This work may also be performed on a traditional piano. An orchestral version, in an arrangement by Lou Harrison, is also available: 3333 3440 T, Perc, Vc, Pf. Hp, Str (EP 6758a).
This work was originally used as music for the choreographed piece by Merce Cunningham, "A Diversion." This suite is in 5 short, numbered movements, and obviously employs a very limited gamut of tones: the nine white keys from E below middle C to the F above. Those for Movements I and V are limited to five tones: G to D. Only in movements III and IV do all nine tones appear. The rhythmic structure is 7-7-6-6-4. This suite is one of Cage's most charming and whimsical compositions. It is humorous and somewhat ironic, giving exaggerated dynamics that can't be fully realized on a toy piano, i.e. from sffz to ppp. In 1963, Lou Harrison made an arrangement of this work for orchestra (3333 4330 timpani, percussion, piano, celesta, harp, strings), which was subsequently published by C.F. Peters (nr.6758a).
Lou Harrison
Peters Edition EP 6758