Big Fish Audio | Home Recording Magazine Zack Price | John Cage Prepared Piano Product Review
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John Cage Prepared Piano | Home Recording Magazine

Reviewer: Zack Price Back to John Cage Prepared Piano product details

Many musicians know that John Cage experimented with altering the sound of the piano to compose and perform his pieces. In the past, pianists had to laboriously prepare an instrument for Cage's works. This involved inserting various pieces of rubber, metal screws, bolts, and nuts between the strings of specified notes on the soundboard at precise distances from the damper or bridge. Now Big Fish Audio has released "John Cage Prepared Piano" ($199.95), a CD-ROM sample set of a piano prepared according to Cage's instructions, to a large extent using his original materials. The library comes in Akai S1000 format and in GigaSampler/HALion format, which is the format I used for this review.

There are four .gig files: Cage Piano ST, Cage Piano M, Cage Soft Pedal ST, and Cage Soft Pedal M, with ST and M denoting stereo and mono. The Piano samples were recorded normally (if that's the right word for it), and the Soft Pedal samples were recorded with the piano's soft pedal down. Within each of the four .gig files are 29 different instruments, most of which are variations of prepared piano setups, with different MIDI parameters controlling performance combinations or aspects. For example, Cage SusSw plays naturally decaying sounds when the sustain pedal is down, but staccato samples when the pedal is up.

The sound itself has a randomly produced synthetic texture that sounds oddly natural. For all its alterations, it's still an acoustic instrument. Obviously, you can use this library to play Cage's works, but why stop there? The unique sound begs to be used in a variety of musical contexts, from electronica to film noir soundtracks. Couple is with GigaStudio's effects (or VST effects if you're a HALion user), and you have the making of some interesting sound textures.

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