Have Airfare, Will Lecture

The Nancarrow conference produced by the Trinity Laban Conservatoire at the Southbank Centre, London, was pretty spectacular, given its modest timeframe. All of the player-piano studies were played on an instrument virtually identical to Conlon’s, Jim Greeson’s documentary on Conlon was premiered (Alex Ross shows an excerpt here), the London Sinfonietta played transcriptions superbly, and Conlon’s widow Yoko presented a very touching portrait of him in words. What one drew from her talk, and also from a paper on the Nancarrow correspondence by Felix Meyer of the Sacher Stiftung, was that Nancarrow not only did not seek any recognition for his music during the 1950s and ’60s, but actively turned away offers from Elliott Carter and others who were trying to get him performances. He truly had no desire for any publicity. One of the most stupendous moments, though, didn’t happen in public. Pianola virtuoso Rex Lawson played a bunch of us, in his studio, a French film score for player piano from 1926 – 1926! – that sounded remarkably like Nancarrow, with plenty of dissonance and jagged lines ripping up and down the keyboard at lightning speed. I didn’t even catch the composer’s name, but Charles Amirkhanian filmed it, and I’ll give you more information as I get it.

Next I’m on my way to Lublin, Poland, for the Cage100 symposium, May 16-18. I deliver the opening paper, “Silence in the Rear-View Mirror,” at 10:15 AM on Wednesday, and there will be a host of Cagean luminaries: Gordon Mumma, Pauline Oliveros, David Nicholls, David Revill, Chris Shultis, and others. After that, it looks like I have five keynote addresses to give the rest of this year, and one already for next year. It’s my new niche. I tell people I walk around with a cardboard, hand-lettered sign that reads, “Will give lecture for free trip to Europe.”

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