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Conlon Nancarrow

Three movements for chamber orchestra



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Lecture on Nancarrow

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My work as the composer's assitant

Nancarrow in 12 channels











Detail of the second movement, directly transcribed from a roll with handwritten Nancarro'ws instrumentation. Ca. 1992.

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The "Three movements for chamber orchestra" are transcriptions of player piano rolls (not punching scores... not final scores) I choose in Nancarrow's studio aver a very stressing situation. Due to health problems, Conlon was unable to write new pieces for the already paid Parnassus commission. After some talks with Yoko and Conlon, we decided to choose a pool of rolls from many different unfinished and finished rolls I found in Nancarrow's studio. (Unfinished means there were not an obvious musical ending in a roll, the work was clearly interrupted. The third movement is for sure one of this).  After several sessions and discussions, Conlon decided which rolls in the pool should be used.  Thereafter I started the transcriptions. None of these rolls had a clear identification and of course I had to deduce by hand many of the tempi and rhythms involved. A lot of guessing work I must say.

Parnassus first objection about this work was that the commission was thought for a new piece and not for recycled material. In the other hand, the score I deliver presented serious problems, up to the point it was musically not viable. I remember I booked a private company to make the final score from my manuscript and I still regret I never made a detailed proof-reading of the score I finally sent to N.Y.  Still, most  likely much of these errors  may be mine. I think the task was too much for me at that time.  Conlon made the orchestration for the first two movements (first movement's percussion instruments should be played by the same musicians. See Conlon's handwritten instrumentations above) and I did the third one.