October 21, 2015

I found this picture of an instrument I’ve never seen before; the “Autophone Organette.”

Autophone Organette Met Museum

I figured I’d see if I could find one in action:

And the punch card thingy made me think of the composer Conlon Nancarrow.

Nancarrow wrote a lot of music that was so technically complex, he couldn’t find anyone who could play it.

So if he ever wanted to hear what his music sounded like, he had to come up with a better solution. Today we’d just multitrack it. But back in the late 30’s, the answer was player piano. Nancarrow punched out his music onto rolls of paper, one note at a time (and that’s a LOT of notes), just so he could hear it back.

Eventually, musicians came on the scene who had the technical chops to play his stuff, and his music is now performed live.

I really like his work, and I think folks who aren’t that familiar with this kind of music might also get into it. Even though it can sound like jazz in a blender, there’s enough relatable content there to keep you involved.

Conlon Nancarrow Fun Fact: I had lunch with Nancarrow and his wife many years ago. They were very nice people.

My ears get tired if I listen to challenging music for too long, so here’s something that should ground us.

It’s the absolute stillness of living in the now.

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