Prepared Piano Piece No. 2 (1992) is an unscored, improvised work combining live performance and experimental tape technique. It was created and recorded the day after Vermilion. Both pieces are part of a set of short works for prepared piano(s) which, as it would turn out, were created three weeks before the death of John Cage, inventor/pioneer of the prepared piano and a giant of 20th century music. It was the last time I would record in the house I grew up in, where I’d returned for a few days.
In the spirit of earlier explorations, I worked with whatever ideas came to me that morning, with whatever was on hand around the house. For that reason the piano was only partially prepared, with all of the useful objects I could find and with a mind to not overwhelm my family’s upright piano. I also altered the tuning of certain notes slightly, in a gesture towards just intonation (i.e. without any particular accuracy).
The piece was recorded on a co-owned 4-track cassette recorder, which by that point was five years old and in a poor state of repair. The sound quality is thus low even for the medium, though some light remastering was performed on the digitized file.
I managed to transcend this sonic limitation in exploring backwards tape technique. The first half of the piece was recorded on the first two of the four tracks of the cassette, and the second half on the last two tracks with the cassette flipped in the recorder. My performance in the second half was in response to the sound of the first half in reverse. During remixing I flipped the tape in the same way at the halfway point, in order to always have my live performance playing forwards, mixed at times with the recording sounding backwards at a slightly lower volume.
In other words, at the halfway point, the backwards background becomes the forwards foreground and vice versa. The result is a special instance of a crab canon, created electroacoustically.
Composed and recorded July 1992
Four-track cassette digitized 2000, remastered 2012
Photo: Mark Russell
Lake Nipissing, Callander, Ontario, October 1992
Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2022