A 21st-Century Anecdote

On a boat going up the Spree River in Berlin, Tom Johnson introduced me to Wolfgang Heisig. Heisig punches player piano rolls and writes music for player piano. Naturally, he has a strong interest in the music of Conlon Nancarrow, and we agreed to trade MIDI files of my own music for computerized piano, his music, and Nancarrow’s. Wolfgang doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak German, but we managed a warm conversation nevertheless. Afterward, Tom expressed surprise that Wolfgang and I managed to chat for so long. “But Tom,” I replied, “the language we speak is universal: MIDI.”