The Wire

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In Writing

Conlon Nancarrow Portal

March 2012

Read a selection of online resources about the late player piano composer, featured in an article by Philip Clark in The Wire 338. Links selected by Dominic Murcott, Head of Composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and artistic advisor to London Southbank Centre's forthcoming Nancarrow festival.

Conlon Nancarrow: A Chronology An excellent introduction to Nancarrow by Kyle Gann who wrote The Music Of Conlon Nancarrow, the definitive analysis of his compositions. Part of a series of Nancarrow pages, you can also find a complete list of works with a note on each that will help the listener negotiate material which can be phenomenally complex and impenetrably dense.

"Luis Memories" A natural born libertarian, travelling half way across the world to fight the fascists in Spain, shunning an ungrateful USA and later human performers, Nancarrow's life is as intriguing as his music. This page is a touching reminiscence by Luis Stephens, the son of Nancarrow's second wife and includes some evocative images. It is part of a Nancarrow site by the recently deceased Jürgen Hocker, a player piano enthusiast who worked with Nancarrow and has also uploaded videos of what seems to be the complete player piano studies to YouTube.

Tom Johnson's Study For Player Piano #1 There are very few non-Nancarrow compositions that use the player piano creatively to surpass human limitations. Here is a lovely example of one of them where the piano roll, keys and hammers become a kind of synchronised animation.

A Conversation With Bruce Duffie Evidence of Nancarrow's mild-mannered belligerence. An artist who seemed to create work without any particular concern if anyone liked it other than himself.

Other Minds A wonderful San Francisco based organisation that celebrates a global underground of intellectual music. The director is Charles Amirkhanian, an early champion of Nancarrow's who produced most of the commercial recordings of the Studies For Player Piano.

Conlon Nancarrow Documentary: A Sense Of Place Hear the man himself and many of the other commentators mentioned here in this illuminating documentary from Public Radio International.

Study No. 21 @ Juilliard A cheeky version of Nancarrow's signature player piano study by a group of Juilliard students in 2008. They shun concerns for accuracy in favour of an almost freely improvised variation. The angry responses are almost as entertaining as the video itself. The first of these is particularly notable as it is from Carlos Sandoval, Nancarrow's assistant in the early 90s. Dominic Murcott is Head of Composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is artistic advisor for Impossible Brilliance: The Music of Conlon Nancarrow at London's Southbank Centre, 21–22 April, 2012.

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