Henry Cowell (1897- 1965) was one of the world’s most fertile experimentalists. At 15, he initiated clusters by playing the keyboard with the fist, palm of the hand or forearm. Deep Colour has a right hand of melody and harmony pitted against a thick thunder of left-hand clusters in one large climax. His ghostscape Banshee, with its wailing female voices, initiates strumming and plucking the piano’s strings with the fingers. He heightens the evil in Leprechaun with the first, albeit primitive, initiation of prepared piano in 1929, 13 years ahead of Cage. His half-cocked crack at deconstruction in Suite for Violin and Piano is corn compared with his subtler deconstruction of baroque in Quartet, decades ahead of Schnittke. Polyphonica for 12 players is tightly written dissonant counterpoint. For all his experimenting, Cowell is perfectly approachable. Recommended.
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