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The Bowed and Prepared

Piano
A Tangible Medium for Composers and Performers
How did we get here?
• In 1925, Henry Cowell composes The Banshee, the first notable
piece to only be performed on the inside of a grand piano.
• In 1938, John Cage invents the prepared piano
• In 1948, John Cage finishes his Sonatas and Interludes, a
collection of 16 Sonatas and 4 Interludes
• In 1973, C. Curtis-Smith composes Rhapsodies, the first piece
to include bowing strings of the piano using fishing line and
string rosin
• In 1977, Stephen Scott founded The Bowed Piano Ensemble
What is a Prepared Piano?
• A piano on which the temporary addition of objects creates new
timbres and pitches when the instrument is played in the normal
manner

“The total desired result has been achieved if, on completion of


the preparation, one may play the pertinent keys without sensing
that he is playing a piano or even a “prepared piano.” An
instrument convincingly its own special characteristic, not
suggesting those of a piano, must be the result.”
-John Cage, Preface to Amores, 1943
Types of Preparations
• String Preparations • Surface Preparations
• Objects are placed in the • Placed on top of the strings
spaces between the strings of rather than being wedged
the piano. between them.
• Metal, Wood, Cloth, Rubber, • Books, Paper, Chains, etc.
Plastic, soft bows
Variables to Preparing the Piano
• Length of the Strings
• String differentiations
• Plain or wound
• Number of strings per unison
• Space between the strings
• Construction of the piano frame
• Cross-beams
• Over stringing
String Preparations

Source: Bunger, The Well Prepared Piano, 13


String Preparations

Source: Richard Bunger, The Well Prepared Piano, 15, 17, 22


Hybrid String Preparations

• Those which employ more


than a single timbral factor
for any one note.
• On a three-string unison,
this may be accomplished
in one of three ways:
• Two identical preparations at
different distances
• Employing more than one
type of preparation material
• A combination of both
Source: Richard Bunger, The Well Prepared Piano, 25
Preparation Pages
• When composing a piece for prepared or bowed piano, one
must provide a list of instructions for preparations.
• For Prepared Piano, a list of instructions should be considered
permanent for the performance of the piece
• For Bowed Piano, the use of mutes and movable preparations
must clearly be laid out in the sheet music or performance
notes.
Source: John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes. (Glendale, NY: Edition Peters) 3.
What is a Bowed Piano?
• “The Bowed Piano Ensemble, founded by Stephen Scott at
Colorado College in 1977, has evolved into a small orchestra
whose ten players conjure, from one open grand piano, long,
singing lines, sustained drones, chugging accordion-like figures,
crisp staccato tones reminiscent of clarinets, deep drum tones
and more, often simultaneously, to create a rich, contrapuntal
new-chamber-music tapestry.”
-The Bowed Piano Ensemble
Source: Top: Bowed Piano Ensemble. Novemeber 9, 2013. University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado. Accessed July 3, 2018 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cu_atlas/10932897833 Bottom: Personal Collection
Source: John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes. (Glendale, NY: Edition Peters) 3.
Stephen Scott’s Preparation Page

Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, (Colorado Springs, Adigital Music BMI)
Stephen Scott’s Preparation Page

Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators
Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, 1
Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, 1
Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, 1
Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, 1
Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, 21
Source: Stephen Scott, Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators, 1
My Approach
Material Cost
Monofilament Fishing line $8.49
String Rosin $6.99
Bulk 100 Pack 1” key rings $9.99
Rubber Screws $3.08
Dunlop 1.0mm Black Guitar Picks $5.99
Medium Marimba Yarn Mallets $16.99
Medium Marimba Rubber Malleys $7.99
Brass Screws $8.99
Brass Washers $5.95
50-Pack Popsicle Sticks $1.00
Non-Residue Painter’s Tape $9.99
White Chalkboard Chalk $1.00
Colored Chalkboard Chalk $1.00
E-Bow $99.95
Works Cited
1. Richard Bunger. The Well Prepared Piano. Colorado Springs, Colorado: The Colorado College
Music Press,1973.
2. Alan Shockley. The Contemporary Piano: A Performer and Composer’s Guide to Techniques and
Resources. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.
3. Inara Ferreira. The Prepared Piano of John Cage: A New Level of Hearing the Sonatas and
Interludes. Master’s Thesis, Florida Atlantic University, 2010.
4. Reiko Ishii. The Development of Extended Piano Techniques in Twentieth-Century American
Music. Doctoral Thesis, The Florida State University. 2005.
5. “The Bowed Piano Ensemble.” The Bowed Piano Ensemble. Accessed July 3, 2018.
http://bowedpianoensemble.com/.
6. John Cage. Sonatas and Interludes. Glendale, New York: Edition Peters, 1946-48.
7. John Cage. Amores. Glendale, New York: Edition Peters, 1943.
8. Stephen Scott. Vikings of the Sunrise: Fantasy on the Polynesian Star Path Navigators. Colorado
Springs, Colorado: Adigital Music BMI, 1995.
9. Andrew Dyet. Alone in a Dark Wood. Cleveland, Ohio: Dyet Publishing, 2018.
10. Bowed Piano Ensemble. Novemeber 9, 2013. University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado.
Accessed July 3, 2018 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cu_atlas/10932897833