|dc.description.abstract||Until the beginning of 20th century, America composers mostly imitated the
composers in Europe and believed that they should go to Europe for taking a proper
music education. At the beginning of the 20th century, pioneers of American composers
searched new sources to make their own music. Henry Cowell (1897-1965), was one of
the first composers who achieved to make his music using attractive new musical
sources of America.
Cowell composed many pieces which suggested a wise and courageous approach to
various sound sources, new composing techniques and non-European musical effects.
He wrote a book titled “New Musical Resources” (1919), in which he explained his
theories about the effect of overtones in music. He wanted to stimulate the society to
listen and have some idea on contemporary music. For this purpose he established the
“New Music Society” in 1925 in order to introduce 20th century composers and their
works. He also started to issue “New Music Quarterly” in 1927 to publish the scores of
those works. He taught at various music schools and many of his students have become
well-known composers. Besides many seminars he wrote numerous articles.
Cowell’s first experimental works originated from the possibilities of the piano,
which were not frequently used before. Between 1920 and 1935, which is the period he
concentrated on his experiments and developed his techniques, he worked on obtaining
different sound qualities from the piano and he performed such works in concert halls,
having both positive and negative critics. In the period 1935-1950 leaving his
experimental works he was mostly interested in non-European music. Finally, from 1950 until his death, he tried to combine his previous innovations in his compositions.
One of the techniques introduced by Cowell in order to obtain new sound qualities
from the piano was the “tone cluster”, formed by playing more than two consecutive
notes at the same time. Cowell used these clusters, which are played by full hand,
forearm or fists, to reinforce his melodic lines. Cowell not only invented “tone cluster”
term, but he developed a new notation to write them as well.
Cowell’s other new technique was what he called “string piano”. His string piano
compositions are played by plucking, pressing or rubbing the strings of the piano with
fingers or palms. Cowell also used the idea of manipulating the strings of the piano with
various tools to create new sonorities. This idea has been developed as “prepared piano”
by John Cage in the following decades.
Although Henry Cowell’s compositions do not take an important place in the
literature of piano and are not performed frequently, they have an important influence
either directly or indirectly on the twentieth century piano music.||en_US