In a programme note for the US premiere of Five Pianos (originally called Pianos and Voices I) in October 1972, Feldman wrote:
"[Five Pianos] began by finding myself humming tones while improvising on the piano. The vocal or humming sounds were quite short, and as the piano sounds lingered, I began to hear other pianos, other humming. Two, three, four pianos were too transparent - the fifth piano became like the pedal blur needed to complete the overall sound I was after. An occasional celeste was added to give the music a more heightened (or brighter) surface which emerges and disappears throughout the work. A recurring ostinato heard in all the pianos (the figure never repeats itself in the same tempo) is another aspect of a "surface" appearing and dissolving into this almost flat, Byzantine canvas."
The performance below took place at St John's Smith Square, London, on January 5th 1973. It was recorded from a radio broadcast on April 12th 1973. The pianists were Harrison Birtwistle, Stephen Savage, Roger Smalley, John Tilbury, and Feldman himself. The recording has been digitally enhanced to improve clarity and remove extraneous noise by Jonathan Coleclough.