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Other Minds Festival:
OM 1: Panel Discussion (Nov. 5, 1993)

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Item Type: Sound Recording Duration: 72 min
Event Type: Lecture and Panel Discussion Program Origin: Other Minds

A panel discussion held on Nov. 5, 1993 on the second day of the first Other Minds Festival of New Music (OM 1), featuring revolutionary, reclusive, composer Conlon Nancarrow in one of his first appearances in the United States since his self-imposed exile after the Spanish Civil War, in which he fought as part of the famous Lincoln Brigade. Joining Nancarrow and the panel’s moderator, Other Minds’ Executive and Artistic Director, was Trimpin a composer, inventor, and sound sculptor who has collaborated with Nancarrow in digitizing his player piano rolls, thus enabling his music to be performed on a variety of unique instruments and sound installations.

To digitize these hand punched rolls Trimpin first had to design a machine that could properly read them including capturing all the essential tempo and dynamics information. Since the Nancarrow’s own player piano used vacuum pumps as a power source Trimpin describes how he adapted a vacuum cleaner hooked up to a Apple Macintosh computer in order to properly transcribe the scores. Amirkhanian then relates how, living in relative isolation in Mexico City, Nancarrow managed to obtain a precision hole punching machine and making his own alterations to it and the player pianos he used in order to realize his extraordinary compositions. Nancarrow also goes through the process he used to compose and then punch the scores, which involved carefully sketching out these intricate mathematical relationships on paper before punching the rolls.

We then hear a number of Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano, first from an original recording of Nancarrow’s player piano and then performed by a piano with a digital controller designed by Trimpin. Also heard is a couple of renditions of “Study No. 40a” including one that is performed by Ringo an electronically controlled percussive installation also designed by Trimpin, which is considered such an excellent and rare experience by Charles Amirkhanian so that he suggests it be heard twice. Despite Nancarrow’s obvious modesty and occasional discomfort at being placed in the spotlight the genius of the man is on clear display in this fascinating introduction to his extraordinary achievements. He was clearly a man so far ahead of his time that we are still only just beginning to catch up to him.

Musical Selections:  Study No. 1, for chamber ensemble (3:07) / Conlon Nancarrow [arr. by Ensemble Modern] -- Study No. 20, for player piano (5:34) / Conlon Nancarrow -- Study No. 40a, for digitally controlled piano [excerpt] (1:25) / Conlon Nancarrow -- Study No. 40a, for Ringo, an electronically controlled percussive installation [excerpt] (0:59) Conlon Nancarrow [arr. by Trimpin] -- Study Nos. 40a, for Ringo, an electronically controlled percussive installation (4:11) / Conlon Nancarrow [arr. by Trimpin] -- Study Nos. 40a, for Ringo, an electronically controlled percussive installation [played a second time] (4:18) / Conlon Nancarrow [arr. by Trimpin]
Performers:  Ensemble Modern (Study No. 1)
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor (Study No. 1)
Genres:  New Music; Mechanical Music
Subject:  New music; Mechanical musical instruments; Chamber music, Arranged; Player piano music; Digital player piano music; Digital percussion ensembles, Arranged
People:  Amirkhanian, Charles; Trimpin, 1951-; Nancarrow, Conlon, 1912-1997 ; Metzmacher, Ingo
Recording Date:  11/05/1993
 
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