Friday, 12 May 2017

Conlon Nancarrow - Studies For Player Piano, Vols. 1-4 (rec. 1977)

I'd been seeing the name Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) crop up for a while, and decided to take the plunge a little while ago.  What I've been struck by, perhaps to an even greater degree than with Harry Partch, is some of the most unique, single-minded music ever created.  There might be fewer instruments here than in Partch - just two slightly modified player-pianos - but Nancarrow's music is so stunningly original I could probably listen to it for the rest of my life and it would still sound fresh.

Starting from an early Art Tatum influence, but already with much more ambitious 'sliding' tempi, Nancarrow went on to develop an interest in the canon structures of J.S. Bach, taking them to the nth degree and far beyond the limits of human playability.  If you're interested in more detail on the theoretical side of this style of composition, the YouTube video below explains it beautifully - and/or you can just go ahead and download these four volumes of  Nancarrow's music that he supervised in 1977 and released one at a time in the next few years after.

The sequencing of each album is wonderfully effective - Volume 1 kicks off with one of the most accessible Studies, No. 3, aka the Boogie-Woogie Suite.  The sheer joy and exhilaration in this 15-minute stretch of Nancarrow's music alone was enough to get me hooked - and three hours worth, of wildly varying complexity, harmony, and breathtaking rhythm/tempo, is just sheer bliss.  Unreservedly recommended.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
Disc 2 mega / Disc 2 zippy
Disc 3 mega / Disc 3 zippy
Disc 4 mega / Disc 4 zippy


  1. I know the name but not the music, so something to look forward to hearing, thanks very much for the opportunity!

  2. I've been looking for his Columbia album for years now. I've only seen it for absurd prices. I'm grateful now to be able to his his player piano work, supervised by the composer. Thanks!

  3. First off, thanks for the shares of such great music, great work. Heard an amazing radio program on Nancarrow years back. He has to be at the tops when it comes to artistic vision and the drive to see it through. thanks for everything.

  4. Staggering stuff. Thank you!

  5. thanks! if you haven't heard them, Bang On A Can's renditions of some of these pieces are worth a listen...

    1. Good tip, thanks - just had a look on YouTube. Stunning group!

  6. I haven't heard them till now but they seems good. Need to get my mp3 copy and listen them. Hope it won't disappoint me, thanks for sharing it

  7. Incredible contribution, man. I've been searching this for months now. I hope I can purchase all of his works soon. If you can upload his "Late and unknown - Works on rolls" (Wergo) or the "Lost works, last works" (Other Minds), that would be AMAZING.

    To spread Nancarrow's work is a very important task for all of us who know about it because of how edifying it is to listen to it. You really are a lot more inspired, sensitive and free after 3 minutes of his player piano music.

    Well, thanks a lot. Hugs from Argentina. Federico Bejarano.

  8. Thank you for these.