Hands Like Waves Unfold
Improvisations for Prepared Piano
The prepared piano has had a long history and has been used by composers such as Cage (who invented the concept), Nancarrow (just once, to the best of my knowledge), and even Arthur Berger. The composer Kui Dong can now be added to the list, as she has released this very nice album of improvisations she performed on a prepared piano, some of which used preparations specified by Cage himself.
Dong trained both in China and at Stanford, and has been active in a free improvisation group with Christian Wolff and Larry Polansky up at Dartmouth (or down at Dartmouth, if you live further north than NH). As such, she is well versed in improvisation and this recording reflects her skill and creativity. For starters, regardless of whether or not she used Cage’s preparations, this music sounds nothing like any of Cage’s prepared piano works. Rather, it has an individual quality all its own, to Dong’s credit. At some points, Dong also seems to go the Henry Cowell route and play the strings of the piano.
This is largely very meditative music, and was a pleasure to listen to. What is particularly interesting is the fact that Dong tends to approach the prepared piano less percussively, to my ears at least, than did Cage and others. In all, this is a very fine album of improvisation for the prepared piano, one that is meant to be enjoyed.