Sonatas and Interludes
for Prepared Piano (69 minutes)
Instrument used: New York Steinway Model B
For Bunita Marcus
(75 min., live recording at Tokyo)
Instrument usued: FAZIOLI F278
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"The inherent "melodic beauty and interest" of this work is fully demonstrated in this recording."
"The "foundation" of preparation is almost perfect, and the "flavor" that needs to be added to it is also excellent. The placement of the "silence" is also well thought out."
"Hiroshi Yokoyama's live performance at close range was so elegant, it was like listening to baroque music on a clavichord."
"In general, Feldman's interpretation focuses on diluting the sense of beat and the presence of bar lines, but Yokoyama's interpretation is the opposite. He clarifies the rhythmic structure, and as a result, a snarky, danceable music emerges! "
"The recital by Hiroshi Yokoyama. I didn't feel sleepy at all, in fact I was quietly excited. I think it was because of the beauty of the unique keystrokes and the moment when the overlapping of the surfaces reappeared."
"He completely removes the romanticism from the piano music, and focuses on the physical beauty of the sound, the attention to touch and precise rhythm. Feldman used to refer to Stravinsky's rhythms. There is an aesthetic inevitability."
"I heard the groovy Morton Feldman for the first time!"
As you know, For Bunita Marcus has a playing time of over 74 minutes. It is not a good fit for the distribution store system, which is based on the number of plays, not the playing time.
If you would like to support us, we would be happy to make it a commission to continue distributing Feldman's music in the future.
Commentary by the performer
Steinway as a Period Instrument
From the commentary distributed at the Hiroshi Yokoyama Prepared Piano Recital at Ryougoku Monten Hall (Tokyo) on December 22, 2018.
A prepared piano is a technique in which a pianist inserts bolts, screws, rubber, etc. between the strings of a grand piano in advance to make the piano sound like bells, drums, etc., and a single piano can produce a variety of tones like a percussion ensemble or gamelan.
“The preferred piano for sonatas and interludes is the Steinway M," John Cage wrote in 1949. This model, M is not a full concert piano, but a rather small grand piano with a depth of 170 cm among the pianos sold by Steinway. The piano in the Ryougoku Monten Hall(Tokyo) collection is this Steinway M. In the case of a prepared piano, the dimensions of the piano, its tone, and even its pitch are deeply connected. It is virtually impossible to prepare the sound Cage wanted on a large grand piano, or any other piano. In other words, there are practical problems when preparing for non-Steinway pianos: the strings are not long enough, they are too long, or the frame of the piano is in the way and cannot be inserted in the position that Cage specified.
I usually play harpsichord and clavichord. I have no qualms about arranging the inside of the instrument, as tuning and string replacement are routine maintenance. The clavichord's fine and mysterious tone comes from the metal-to-metal contact. Of course, I never thought of it as damaging to the instrument.
Regarding the shift pedal (the left pedal on a grand piano), Cage reported after publication that "the movement of the shift pedal should be adjusted so that the hammer strikes the second and third strings, not all three. The current Japanese pianos are manufactured at the factory. Current Japanese pianos are often not set up to strike two strings when they are shipped from the factory. In most cases, the shift pedal is supposed to "soften" the tone of the piano. But here it is a device that changes the "number" of strings that sound, similar to the mechanism that manipulates the tone of a harpsichord or pipe organ.
“I decided on the material for the preparation as if I were walking along the beach looking for a shell with a shape I liked.”
The sound of a bolt is similar to the sound of a temple bell in Japan or a church bell in Europe. The sound of a screw, which is often used in the upper register, is sparkling like an iron fiddle (glockenspiel). The sound produced by the elastic rubber mute is similar to that of a wooden fish(Mokugyo).
Unlike instruments made by historical instrument makers, which contain many natural materials and have different shapes and tones, modern pianos, which are industrial products, use metal parts such as bolts and screws as basic materials. The Copernican Revolution of inserting these parts into the piano wire and changing the tone produced by the wire (even if it was a coincidence) has shaken our understanding of the piano as an instrument. The idea of the prepared piano was both an intervention and an objection to the perfected instruments of industrial society.
When modern pianos are tuned, the first thing the tuner does is to adjust the note in La(A) to 440-442 Hz. However, there is nothing inserted in the La tone that appears in the left thumb of the closing section of Sonata No. 16, so it does not sound like a bell, but a normal piano La tone. It is up to the pianist to decide how many times to play that La note that is written in.
“The sound of church bells is reminiscent of Europe. The lingering, drum-like sound is oriental. The last sonata in the collection, No. 16, is unquestionably my signature composition as a 'Westerner'.”
From the commentary distributed at the recital at Toyosu Civic Center, Tokyo, January 11, 2020. On this day, John Cage's 4'33'' was played before For Bunita Marcus.
The American composer John Cage has influenced many fields of art and pop culture, and is often mentioned in the realm of natural science, but he is also famous for the fact that his works are rarely performed. In an attempt to experience complete silence, John Cage entered an anechoic chamber at Harvard University. What his ears, which were supposed to be shielded from sound, heard were two types of noise from within the body: the sound of blood flowing and the sound of the nervous system. After hearing the sounds of life, Cage came to the realization that "silence does not exist" and composed 4'33".
Morton Feldman, on the other hand, was attempting to transform visual art into music. As a young man, Feldman had worked as a production assistant for an abstract expressionist painter, and he related the area of the canvas to the duration of the musical work. He came to believe that a "large work" in art would be a "long work" if translated into a musical work. Mark Rothko [1903-1970], an abstract expressionist painter who was in contact with Feldman, also created many huge works. In Japan, Rothko's works can be seen at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture. In a dimly lit room, there are seven paintings called Seagram Murals that are 4.5 meters wide, and the thin layers of reddish brown paint on the surface remind us of dried blood. The paintings, which encourage deep introspection, transcend the framework of visual art and become a form of spatial art, an installation.
In a lecture in Darmstadt, Germany, Feldman explained the relationship between his work and carpets: " I also got my feeling of doubling and how I want to double, or how I want to hear a certain note, from music as well, of course, from my ears. But also from something that’s very, very beautiful in that Teppich, rug. If you want a very deep blue, you cannot get it on the first dye. It has to be re-dyed, over and over again. And the whole idea of someone doing it outdoors where I know how long it took her to re-dye and re-dye because she was very fussy on the timbre about her dye is something that influenced me.”
On the publication of For Bunita Marcus, Feldman comments, "I would like to use the word 'rhythmicize' instead of 'rhythm. The piece consists mainly of patterns in 3/8 time, 5/16 time, and 2/2 time.I used the meter as a method of drawing. As a result, the relationship between meter and time appears as the duration of the piece.
When the compact disc was first introduced to the world market in 1983, the maximum recording time was 74 minutes. For Bunita Marcus is said to be 75 minutes long, so was the playing time set so that it could not be played continuously on a CD? This is in contrast to 4'33'', which was composed so as not to exceed the maximum recording time of 5 minutes on SP records.