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Otherworldly Compositions for Player Piano

Who was Conlon Nancarrow?
Real Audio 3.0 28.8

Radio Feature "Freed from worrying about whether performers could actually perform the music, Nancarrow developed a body of work that is like no other."

A Photographer's Tribute
Photos by John Fago, who reflects upon his encounters with the composer.

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Conlon Nancarrow
Conlon Nancarrow, 1990
Photograph ©John Fago (click for larger view.)

EVER HEARD OF THE COMPOSER CONLON NANCARROW? Probably not. His isn't exactly a household name. But Nancarrow - who died in August, 1997 - inspired a generation of composers. He wrote music that was incredibly complex - so complex, in fact, that human beings simply couldn't play it. And because performers couldn't play what Nancarrow was writing, he began creating music expressly for an instrument that requires no human hand. It's an instrument that seems to fit better in pizza parlors and shoot-'em-up saloons in old Westerns than in serious classical music: the player piano.

Audio Sampler
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Examples of Nancarrow's own works and some from composers he admired.

Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano

Study for Player Piano 3b

Study for Player Piano 49c

played by Earl Hines

In a Sentimental Mood
played by Art Tatum

Full Summary of Musical Selections