Guild Hall Presents Pianist Joshua Pierce in a Rare Performance of Works by Michael Harrison and John Cage

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Michael Harrison's Revelation: Music for the Harmonically Tuned Piano and John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes: Music for Prepared Piano.

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On Wednesday September 1st at 7:00PM in East Hampton, New York, Guild Hall will present pianist Joshua Pierce in a rare performance of two important 20th and 21st century ground-breaking works for solo piano.

One of the more dynamic pianists of the late 20th century, Joshua Pierce enters the 21st at the top of his talents. From his Solo and Duo-Piano World Premier recordings to his collaboration with composer Daron Hagen, to him being named a Yamaha Artist, Joshua Pierce continues to surprise and please both critics and fans at every concert. Pierce has been acknowledged as one of today's most versatile, exciting and original pianists. He is renowned as a thoroughly musical and brilliant interpreter of the standard repertoire and is widely recognized as a major interpreter of contemporary music.

Both works that Mr. Pierce will perform have revolutionized the way one can perform and listen to the piano. Revelation is a ninety-minute that was written for the "harmonically tuned" piano (which was invented by composer Michael Harrison). Harrison’s tuning of the piano is set to a different overtone series that traditional piano tuning. Hence, he rewards the performer and listener with a barrage of colors that are not available from standard tuning. The overtone series and resonation in this tuning yield stunning effects from the piano that sometimes resemble the human voice or a string section.

Composer Michael Harrison has always been fascinated with the beautiful resonances created by the overtone-based tuning system ("just intonation") used in Indian music, Harrison began applying these ancient principles to the piano, creating music with sounds that standard western tuning could not achieve. In 1980, seeking the guidance of the most innovative composer working with "just intonation," he came to New York City to study with the avant-garde visionary La Monte Young under the auspices of the Dia Art Foundation. In 1986, with the help of two expert piano technicians, Harrison created the "harmonic piano," a uniquely customized acoustic grand piano with the ability to alternate between two different tunings with one keyboard. The "harmonic piano" evolved from the unique design features of Young’s The Well-Tempered Piano custom Bösendorfer Imperial grand. The "harmonic piano" allowed Harrison a range of tonal flexibility and tuning precision of unprecedented scope. Kyle Gann in The Village Voice hailed the "harmonic piano" as "a landmark in the history of Western tuning," and Stephen Hill of National Public Radio called his work "the first major tuning development in Western music since Bach."

In program notes for the performance of Revelation, Harrison explains: "As I experimented with the "revelation" tuning, I discovered that it possessed unique capabilities that I had never heard or encountered before. These sounds are difficult to describe in words. However, by combining carefully selected pitch relationships with various performance techniques, this tuning creates undulating waves of shimmering and pulsating sounds, with what sound like "phase shifting" and "note bending" effects and other acoustical phenomena. Sometimes the overtones are so audible it sounds as if many different acoustic and electronic instruments are resonating from the piano. The tuning has so many beautiful and exotic sounds latent within it, that for the first few months every time I played it, I discovered new harmonic regions and felt like an explorer in vast unexplored and distant realms."

The other work on the program that shifted the world of piano is the Sonatas and Interludes for Piano by the late 20th-century composer John Cage. Cage was born on 5 September 1912 in Los Angeles. His father was an inventor, and his mother was a founder of Lincoln Study Clubs in Detroit and Los Angeles. After graduating from high school, John Cage attended Pomona College but dropped it after two years. Wanting to become a writer, he went to Europe (Paris, Berlin and Madrid) and studied music, art and architecture. After returning to States in 1933, he met Henry Cowell and attended his classes on contemporary music. At Cowell's suggestion he went to study with Arnold Schoenberg (Schoenberg agreed to teach him free of charge). But the two of them separated rather quickly (in 1935) because of their arguments about harmony.

Cage's early pieces were devoted mainly to percussion instruments. Works were based around rhythmic patterns and were more oriented to Eastern that to Western music. Perhaps, the most important works from this period are Imaginary Landscape no. 1, and Construction I & II. At the end of the 1930s Cage, working on Cowell's ideas, developed what is now known as "prepared piano" in order to obtain new percussive sounds from classical instruments (Schoenberg's opinion was that Cage "is not a composer, he is an inventor"). From that time to the mid-1950s he wrote a number of pieces for that instrument. Bacchanele (1940) was the first one to be performed, but his best pieces for prepared piano are in collection called Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, a cycle of pieces written from 1946 to 1948. Cage did not neglect percussion during work on the prepared piano. He even wrote some pieces for prepared piano and percussion (Amores, 1943 - 2 solos for prepared piano and 2 solos for 3 percussionist; She is Asleep, 1943 for percussion quartet, voice and prepared piano).

For more information on Joshua Pierce, Michael Harrison please contact Tony Scafide or Phil Casesse at Generation Media at 631 846-6231 or

For ticket information please contact Guild Hall by calling 631-288-3420 for tickets and prices.


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Tony Scafide