parlando playlist #79: conlon nancarrow - study for player piano no. 24 [bet. 1948 - 1960*; 1969]

Posted on December 26th, 2013 by Scraps.
Categories: Music, Parlando Playlist.

Conlon Nancarrow was a very obscure composer, until his last twenty years or so, when he got proclaimed (by Gy├Ârgy Ligeti, no less) "the greatest discovery since Webern and Ives", presented with a MacArthur Award, played live by the Bang on a Can All-Stars: all while he composed (for the most part) for player piano.

He was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, and lived in America, until he served with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. When he got home, the United States government confiscated his passport. Outraged and fearing persecution, he left for Mexico in 1940, and lived for the rest of his life, gaining Mexican citizenship in 1956; he died in 1997.

"Study for Player Piano No. 24" (Canon 14:15:16) was released in his first album in 1969.
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* Nancarrow didn't give an order of completion, and early on, no one was paying attention.

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6 comments.

Lisa Hirsch

Comment on December 26th, 2013.

Obscure compared to top-40 concert music composers, but not to anyone interested in contemporary music. I first heard his music in the 1970s, for example.

Scraps

Comment on December 26th, 2013.

Right; I said he was obscure until the last twenty years of his life (he died in 1997). He started to get noticed in the 1970s, but he was composing music in the 1930s.

Gavin

Comment on January 10th, 2014.

That's an interesting marriage of instrument and composition. On one listen, I like it and I'd be curious to hear more and see if it stuck with me.

Did live performances involve rolling out a player piano, or do pianists try to replicate the pieces?

Scraps

Comment on January 10th, 2014.

[Very rarely does] the player piano pieces get played live. Mostly they are impossible to play (that's part of Nancarrow's reasons [for writing to] player piano).

Though I know some pianists do play the few studies that are not impossible to play.

Gavin

Comment on January 10th, 2014.

The player piano pieces are very rarely played live. Mostly they are impossible to play (that's part of Nancarrow's reasons to write for the player piano).

Your version wasn't wrong, but this is slightly more idiomatic.

I would love it if player piano rolls were widely distributed--that would have been a cool medium for Beck's Songbook.

Scraps

Comment on January 10th, 2014.

Thank you!

And yes, that would be neat.

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