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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Classical Music 101: What is a prepared piano?

By John Terauds on February 10, 2012

Screws necessary for tonight's Cage performance

Some of the pieces being presented in the Music Gallery’s two-day, three-concert Cold War Songbook, which starts tonight, call for a prepared piano.

This does not mean a quick polish or two-hours of warmup, or even a last-minute tuning.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

A prepared piano is one where the normal sound is changed by inserting objects under its lid, changing the way the hammers hit the strings, or blocking off certain strings to muffle them or change their timbre.

In the case of these two pieces by John Cage, performed by Vicky Chow, who is at the Music Gallery tonight, you could say that this prepared piano is screwed. Close your eyes, and you would never know this is a piano:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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