I’ve always said that the optimum way to experience Nancarrow’s Player Piano Studies was “live” and close-up, being able to watch the piano roll go by. It’s a roller-coaster experience: you can see the notes coming before they get there, anticipate their crash into audibility a split-second before it comes, and it adds to the excitement. Well, Nancarrow’s piano technician Jürgen Hocker has put up You Tube videos of (almost) the complete Studies, including a couple outside the official canon (I say almost because I don’t see No. 41 yet, but perhaps it’s coming). The pieces are played on a pair of Bösendorfer grand player pianos, and it seems evident that Jürgen’s done something to the hammers to make them sound like Nancarrow’s altered pianos. Sometimes you get to watch the piano roll go by close-up; at other times the camera pans out so you can watch the keys play by themselves for awhile. It’s the next best thing to being down in that studio in Mexico City. Study No. 30, the “abandoned” one for prepared player piano, is included, though without the preparations (we could never quite figure out what they were); also Para Yoko, and an early study used in the Merce Cunningham dance from 1960, then withdrawn, which resurfaced decades later as Piece for Ligeti. Jürgen throws in many photo-explanations of Conlon’s working tools and method, so it’s an enlightening presentation, worth spending some time with. (Needs a robust browser, though, my Safari keeps blinking out on it.) (h/t Nick Seaver)
While I’m at it, I noticed lately that someone has made a little You Tube video based on my microtonal composition Charing Cross, with historical paintings and photos of the Charing Cross area in London. Very nice. These things just appear, I guess(?).
Lastly, I notice that a couple of musicology grad students, Mark Samples and Zach Wallmark, have an entire blog devoted to running commentary on Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music as they crawl their way through it, called The Taruskin Challenge. Almost like reading it, I suppose.
UPDATE: By the way, even with Captcha as a buffer, I’m now once again getting more spam mail on this site than legitimate comments. Pardon me if I say, in hopes that they’ll see it, that these idiots trying to peddle their pathetic wares via my comments section are THE SCUM OF THE EARTH. Also, their puerile efforts are entirely wasted, since not a single spam ever gets posted.