Saturday, November 01, 2008

What I am Listening to Today

Conlon Nancarrow, Studies for Player Piano Volume I and II

Wergo 6907 part of a 5 CD box. Nancarrow prepared player piano performing.

Imagine a possessed honky tonk piano, out of tune... spitting fire and smoke, inside glowing blood red hot, no mortal soul around to manipulate it.. playing a demonic boogie woogie at supersonic speed.

Get the image?

Fucking loony music... wild, inventive, colorful, awe inspiring, definitely unique. Lucky for us, Nancarrow composed these pieces on piano rolls and his original player pianos still exist, thus we can today experience the otherworldly muse of this unique man.

Nancarrow was born in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1912. In his youth, he was introduced to jazz and played trumpet in a jazz band. He went on to study music with some of the greats of the early 20th century, Sessions, Slonimsky and Piston. As many artists did in the 30s, he joined the Communist Party and eventually went to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Upon return, he found himself harassed due to his Communist affiliations and time in Spain so he left New York for Mexico, where he lived in virtual isolation for the rest of his life. His earliest pieces for player piano were jazz influenced, but later works evolved around complex ratios of simultaneous rhythms, resulting in even more dense and intricate pieces. Although he composed for other media, his player piano works have earned him an enduring legacy.

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