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Cowell: Aeolian Harp

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: slap it, strum it, pick it, drum it…

Born in Menlo Park, CA to bohemian parents, Cowell was a founding father of the characteristic free spirit of the American West Coast music. Composing copiously from a young age, Cowell was never dissuaded by obedience to tradition. “Aeolian Harp” and “Exultation” were written in the period in which Cowell was frequently touring abroad, entertaining, fascinating, and occasionally scandalizing audiences with his unconventional ideas and performance techniques. In “Aeolian Harp,” he instructs the player to strum and pluck inside of the piano, rather than on the keys! In “Exultation,” Cowell experiments with tone clusters, or large groupings of pitches played simultaneously. This technique fell on some willing ears in Europe. Bela Bartok actually wrote to Cowell, requesting his permission to use the cluster technique!

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