Back to All Events

Special Event: John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes (1948)

  • Charles Smith Wines 35 South Spokane Street Walla Walla, WA, 99362 United States (map)

Are you prepared?

John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes (1948)


Hot/Cold, East/West, Sound/[…] Seemingly, these pairs represent opposites. Upon reflection, however, it might be better stated that each represents a Whole. There is no east without west. There is no hot without cold (I suppose cold is a description of the absence of heat, but we won’t split hairs. Presence and absence form a perfectly reasonable Whole). When it comes to sound and silence, however, Wholeness becomes an entirely confounding and confusing proposition.

John Cage is perhaps most famous in popular culture for his work, 4’33”. The title refers to the duration of the first performance of the work, which consists solely of pianistic silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The performer sits down at the piano and proceeds to play not a sound. There are three distinct movements to the work, but a casual listener might not discern the precise breaks between sections. At the world premiere, the keyboard lid was lowered and raised in correspondence with each movement. Lowered meant the performance was “on.” Raised meant a break between movements. The music, of course, was the complex soundworld of chance and ambience. True silence proved elusive. And as for the agency of performance? Well, let’s just say that we are all capable of performing this difficult work unencumbered by any investment in private lessons.

So, what gives? Is it all poppycock?

Valid questions, both. Such is the world we enter when considering the music of John Cage. Cage conceived of 4’33” while composing his masterpiece for solo piano Sonatas, and Interludes. Yes, silence, or the perception of silence plays a role. But there are notes, harmonies, and rhythms, too. And much more.

Sonatas and Interludes is a work for prepared piano. Preparation, in this case, means the placement of foreign objects among the strings and mechanisms of the piano itself. A metal screw here, a rubber wedge there, maybe a wooden spoon for good measure. Cage gives very specific instructions for the placement of each object. The results are akin to sonic phase changes between gasses, liquids, and solids. The elements remain the same, but the sounds are melted, frozen or sublimated to form a new atmosphere in which our expectations and perceptions are inherently altered.

The resulting music is at once tender, profound and entirely unique. Over the course of 20 brief movements, described variously by the composer as sonatas (16) or interludes (4), a Whole emerges. Are you prepared? Piano virtuoso Conor Hanick is, and so is the piano! Conor makes his WWCMF debut with this extraordinary work in the extraordinary space of Charles Smith Wines’ downtown tasting room.

NOTE: This program has changed. Please direct any questions to, or give us a call at (509) 525-4412.

Artist: Conor Hanick, piano

Doors open at 5 PM.


Subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll be the first to hear about June’s events.

Earlier Event: January 18
Free: Open Rehearsal
Later Event: January 19
Free: Sounds Like Fun! Concert for Kids