Sonata V by John Cage

Sonata V by John Cage

Sonata V by John Cage is one of the critical works in the musical field essential in understanding the concept of sound variation under the influence of external objects between and on the hammer or damper as well as piano’s strings. In Sonata V, for prepared piano, by John Cage, the pianist is instructed to alter the piano sound. This is achievable through various techniques. For instance, alteration of the sound is achieved through placement of objects or the aspects of preparation on the strings. It is also possible to place the objects between the strings, dampers, and hammers for the alteration of the piano sound (Forney & Machlis, 2011). This relates to the capacity of the pianist to utilize external objects in altering the sound of the piano. In the modern society, this technique is applicable in other instruments rather than the piano. The technique is vital in the generation of diverse musical sounds. For instance, in the Sonata V by John Cage, the outcome was an appealing percussion melody following alteration of the piano’s sound (Brooks, 2012).

Alteration of the sound of the piano generates its percussive side rather than the melodic side of the instrument (Haskins, 2013). The outcome of the sound was as if one was listening to the multiple percussion instruments. The melody was quite limited moving between altered pitches. This is an expression of innovation in the music with the aim of addressing diverse needs and preferences of the audiences. In the development of Sonata V, John Cage focused on integration of his inspiration from exotic music by Boulez in relation to avant garde. The work is an illustration of the complex theories in relation to serialism in the context of the United States and Europe.


Forney, K., & Machlis, J. (2011). The enjoyment of music: An introduction to perceptive listening. (Shorter 11th ed). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Brooks, W. (2012). In re: ‘Experimental Music’. Contemporary Music Review, 31(1), 37-62.

Haskins. (2013). 4 Walls; Primitive; Sonatas & Interludes; 3 Early Songs+. American Record Guide, 76(1), 76.