Another “shocking” idea which Henry Cowell introduced into his esthetic is that of playing inside the piano instead of outside. (The Banshee; Sinister Resonance; The Aeolian Harp, are so performed.) “You know,” he said, “I’ve done a lot of new things, not just to do something new, but because I imagined that that was the way to find out about music. For example, in the 1920’s it struck me that a person could play inside a piano, on the strings, just as easily as he could play on the keys. So I developed a number of systems to prove my thesis . . . Once I used an egg, a darning egg, to make the strings sound. And on other occasions, I’ve used paper cutters and ordinary spoons and pencils placed between the strings and vibrated. It creates a sonority like this—- Drrrrrr.” John Cage later used similar methods to create his “prepared pianos.”
Probably no musical instrument displaced from usage by the march of musical events has ever been so thoroughly returned to favor as has the harpsichord in recent years. During the 16th and 17th centuries, before invention of the “hammer” piano, the spruce and pungent timbre of the harpsichord (variously known as clavicembalo, cembalo, clavecin, and virginal) reigned supreme among the keyboard instruments. Indeed, even after its displacement by the pianoforte in concert life, its usefulness as an operatic accompanist continued for a long time. Composers of the Romantic period, however, neglected the instrument, and it remained for those of the 20th century to reinstate the clear, rational sonority of the quill plucked string to its deserved position of importance. Since 1948, the young American composer, Daniel Pinkham, and violinist Robert Brink, who are heard on this recording, have toured extensively in Europe and North America as the Brink- Pinkham Violin and Harpsichord Duo. They have performed not only standard literature of the 17th and 18th centuries, but contemporary works as well. All three pieces for violin and harpsichord here recorded were composed especially for the Duo.
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Music of Cowell, Pinkham & Hovhaness