Several people have noted that I am mentioned in connection with the Nancarrow festival at the Whitney Museum this week. (I’ve been quoted in the Times and the New Yorker.) I will indeed be present for it next Wednesday, the 24th. At 1 PM and again at 4 I’m supposed to give an informal talk on Nancarrow, and bring up my favorite Player Piano Studies, which will then be played “live” on an Ampico player piano like Conlon’s. Sounds like a fun gig, but I can never decide which studies to play. The ones I wouldn’t play are easy to pick, but I always want people to hear nos. 3, 4, 6, 7, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 33, 36, 37, 40, 41, 43, and 48 and the unofficial roll M. It’s too much. I never know how to choose. No. 3 is so fun for the uninitiated, 4 is lovably cute, 6 is fun to explain, 24 is perfect, 25 is a riot, 40 is transcendentally exciting, 21 is a crowd-pleaser, 36 is a miracle, 37 is a modernist classic, 48 is hugely ambitious. I could do it all given enough time, but I never know where to start or stop. And I’ll have a dozen friends there to catch up with, including Luis Stephens, Nancarrow’s stepson by his second wife, who’s been an invaluable font of information about Conlon in the 1940s.
And to bring up another important composer, my friend John Luther Adams has a long excerpt from his upcoming memoir in this week’s New Yorker, in which he was kind enough to mention me. Good reading. John says I once told him, “John, you’re always so earnest, but I like you anyway.” John and I have been sober for a modest percentage of our times together. He greatly heightened my appreciation of expensive single-malt scotch, and I’ve never recovered.