Thursday, August 9, 2007

Busy seances...

I'm still working my way through all of the New Music Seances I mentioned recently. The Sleepwalker's Shuffle concert was very much in the hypnotic vein for a while, including a beautiful Meditation by Jonathan Russell, a appealing new work by a composer heretofore unknown (at least around here). Then came three Disklavier pieces by Conlon Nancarrow. I've heard Nancarrow's studies for player piano before, but I've never owned any of his records and don't know his music well. It renders dubious my comment in the Ravel post that music that moved on different timescales was rare. Such busy music! Study No. 3 seems to have quite a few different time scales, or at least different tempi, unconnected to each other on any beat, strong or weak. Of course, no human can play this complex music, which is why he wrote the pieces for player piano, (now the Disklavier). But with the player piano's sharp timbres, which serve to keep all of the different lines audible, his work also makes for a very demanding listen. It refuses to stay in the background. Its inhuman virtuosity is dazzling, overwhelming, brilliant.

Kyle Gann has written a book on Nancarrow and mentions him often in his blog. I see a strong parallel between these Nancarrow pieces and a recent Tzadik release by MC Maguire, Meta-Conspiracy. Gann met Magiure at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and was so impressed that he wrote a long post about him earlier this year. I listened to small excerpts, then bought the CD when it came out a few months ago. When I listen to the whole CD, Meta-Conspiracy is just as busy as these Nancarrow pieces. I can see why Gann recommended it. A Short History of Lounge for piano and computer every bit the wild ride that Gann described.

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