Avant garde composer John Cage (1912–1992) started composing for prepared piano in 1940. The majority of early works for this instrument were created to accompany dances by Cage's various collaborators. In the liner notes for the first recording of his most highly acclaimed work for prepared piano, Sonatas & Interludes, Cage wrote: "Composing for the prepared piano is not a criticism of the instrument. I'm only being practical."
Cage first prepared a piano when he was commissioned to write music for "Bacchanale", a dance by Syvilla Fort in 1938. For some time previously, Cage had been writing exclusively for a percussion ensemble, but the hall where Fort’s dance was to be staged had no room for a percussion group. The only instrument available was a grand piano. After some consideration, Cage realized it was possible “to place in the hands of a single pianist the equivalent of an entire percussion orchestra ... With just one musician, you can really do an unlimited number of things on the inside of the piano if you have at your disposal an exploded keyboard”.