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Work Title
Begun in 1938, returned to and completed in 1940. Premiered in Seattle, April 28, 1940.
Ensemble Type
Work Length
6 minutes
For solo prepared piano.
Bacchanale was Cage's first work for prepared piano, composed in response to a request for a "dance accompaniment" by fellow faculty member at the Cornish School, Syvilla Fort. As per Fort’s request for a work with an African “inflection,” Cage intended to write a piece for percussion ensemble. However, given that the performance space was too small to accommodate a battery of percussion instruments, and that he had only a traditional grand piano with which to work, he began experimenting with objects placed inside the piano – under and between its strings – attempting to alter its sounds. The final preparations are quite simple: weather-stripping, pieces of rubber, and screws and bolts. The prepared piano became a signal instrument for Cage. Years later, in 1949, after the N.Y. premiere of his magnus opus for the instrument, Sonatas and Interludes (1946-48), Cage received citations from both the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Academy of Arts and Letters for having "extended the boundaries of music."
Peters Edition EP 67886a