This is a composition in six untitled movements. It was written during a period in Cage’s life that was tinged with confusion and sadness, resulting, in large part, from his imminent separation from his wife, Xenia. The title derives from a collection of Irish folktales. The music recounts the dangers of erotic love, the misery of people separating, and the loneliness and terror one may experience when love becomes unhappy. The piano preparation is moderately elaborate and each of the work’s six movements has a different rhythmic structure.
Comment from John Cage Trust
The rhythmic structure of the individual movements is expressed in the length of the phrases. John Cage decided for each individual movement how many bars a phrase lasts, and then consistently maintained this length throughout the entire movement. In the notes, the end of a phrase is always indicated by a double bar instead of a single bar line. This said, the first movement consists of 10 phrases of 10 bars each, the second movement of 6 phrases of 6 bars each, the third of 12 phrases of 12 bars each, and so on.
Each time I revisit Cage’s pieces for prepared piano, I am fascinated anew by the exotic sound world achieved through relatively simple means. I find it wonderful that the actually pragmatic idea of imitating the sounds of a percussion ensemble by preparing the piano using erasers, window insulation tape, nuts, metal screws and wooden dowels opens the sonic window so wide in the direction of microtonality.