Referring to classical Indian thought and influenced by Gita Sarabhai, the Indian musician he was tutoring in the mid-1940s, John Cage formulated the idea that the purpose of music was to “to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences”.

Written as a clear homage to Erik Satie, “In a landscape” was originally composed in 1948 to accompany a choreography by dancer Louise Lippold. Written for solo piano or harp, John Cage instructed the performer to sustain both the damper and the sustain pedals together for the entire duration of the piece – only to release them at the very last measure: “Play without sounding, release pedals (thus obtaining harmonics”).

John Cage - In a landscape (1995) - Solo piano: Stephen Drury
John Cage – In a landscape (1995) – Solo piano: Stephen Drury

Composed the same year and also for a choreography, one can consider “Dream” as a companion piece to “In a landscape”.

While following a strict symmetrical structure at a quiet meandering pace, “In a landscape” is a timeless and mesmerising invitation to reflection and contemplation. With its cyclical repetition of note patterns and absence of dynamics within the piece, “In a landscape” is a “divine” theme which prefigures minimal music and remains a constant reference for contemporary modern classical pianists.