Henry Cowell, born 120 years ago today, composed music in a great variety of styles, from neoclassical to experimental to electronic. Unlike many experimental composers, he took care that the formalities of musical creation never jeopardize the listener’s experience.
He liked to write piano music for the arm as well as ten fingers.
and he invented notation that supported whole-arm techniques. In this 3-minute piece there’s constantly something new happening to keep your ears on their toes.
There are a lot more things you can do with a piano than sit in front of it and touch its keys with your fingers.
In these 6 piano pieces, he takes Chopin’s innovations with independent rhythms in the two hands to 20th century levels.
Cowell was a prodigiously prolific composer, and also managed to educate and inspire a great number of composers and performers in the next generation, including thousands of inmates at San Quentin.