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Monday, October 30, 2017

Dutka, Prepared Piano, Whale's Teeth

John Cage is rightly given the credit for inventing the prepared piano, the practice of placing tone-altering objects between or on top of the strings of a grand piano. His music in this realm revolutionized the sonic possibilities, creating a kind of percussion orchestra that both recalled and transcended non-Western structures and gave avant garde new music a new direction that in part stays with us today. His Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1946-4) gave us his most elaborate and satisfying work in this realm, and it still enjoys world-wide renown.

Others have taken up writing and working with prepared piano configurations. Enter Warsaw born and based composer, pianist and painter Dutka and his six part series of impromptus for prepared piano collectively entitled Whale's Teeth (DUX 1379).

The piano is prepared from natural objects, mostly in the lower half of the instrument. Like Cage's pioneering work, most of the music has a pronounced rhythmic drive, taken often in the form or ostinatos and variations on them in the lower register with the right hand providing counter-rhythmic figures and melodic runs that have at times an avant jazz flavor, other times a ritual primality.

All comes at us loosely, with an improvisational spontaneity yet a coherent roadmap guiding the direction of each. It is music that  extends the implication of Cage's legacy without being overly derivative.

It is a program both provocative and enjoyable--not necessarily some huge breakthrough but filled with rhythmic presence and a sound color palate alternatingly and simultaneously both bright and dark. A lively and stimulating listen!

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