was conceived to further the development and use of new and existing midified acoustic musical instruments. These instruments are electronically controlled and have replaced the electrically and/or mechanically driven instruments made for centuries; wind-up music boxes, clocks, dance organs and other instruments to the player piano's, so fabulously successful in the 20th century.
Conlon stimulates the use of these midified acoustic instruments by Dutch and non-Dutch (resident) composers and musicians by organizing workshops and concerts. To provide examples of existing repetoire, Conlon is building a database of a representative body of music, as an ongoing project on its new website. These works may be composed or improvised using midified acoustic instruments exclusively, or may include any possible combination of midified and purely acoustic intruments. Also, combinations with other media are of interest to Conlon, for example, projects using midi-out with a Disklavier to trigger video and films.
The inspiration for our name, 'Conlon' refers, of course, to the father of 'new music' for player piano's.
Kyle Gann, the composer, musicologist and writer wrote about Nancarrow:
'The expatriate American experimentalist composer Conlon Nancarrow is increasingly recognized as having one of the most innovative musical minds of this century. His music, almost all written for player piano, is the most rhythmically complex ever written, couched in intricate contrapuntal systems using up to twelve different tempos at the same time. Yet despite its complexity, Nancarrow's music drew its early influence from the jazz pianism of Art Tatum and Earl Hines and from the rhythms of Indian music; Nancarrow's whirlwinds of notes are joyously physical in their energy. Composed in almost complete isolation from 1940, this music has achieved international fame only in the last few years. Born in 1912, the son of the mayor of Texarkana, Nancarrow fought in the Lincoln Brigade, then fled America to Mexico City to avoid being hounded for his former Communist affiliations.' (*)
and in his article for the American Composer's Orchestra on Nancarrow:
'Conlon Nancarrow, Reclusive Celebrity' 'At some point in the late 1950s, Nancarrow realized that the player piano could be more than just a really fast piano - that it could create humanly unplayable textures and thus a totally new sound that hardly resembled the piano at all. In Study #25 he started using huge figures that ripped across the keyboard in a second or two, and his subsequent music is full of these (as he liked calling them) 'Nancarrow licks.' In later years, he became intrigued by ever more complex tempo relationships: Study No. 33 is a canon with two tempos at ratios of 2 against the square root of 2, and Study No. 40 uses tempos at a ratio of e (the irrational base of natural logarithms) against pi.'
'That sounds like something by Noncarrow', can be a compliment to the complexity and unplayability of a music composed for human musicians. It can also be a somewhat disparaging remark about music made complex for the sake of effect using electronic processing. We welcome and hope to provide the impetus different styles of autonomous composed or improvised music for midified acoustic musical instruments. However, simply 'pushing the envelope' of the technical limitations of human players by electronic means would counter the ideas of a composer like Noncarrow. His musical visions were his own, basically unplayable by one person, which was his reason for writing for player piano, and these new ideas about rhythmic and melodic polyphone were very much of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Conlon Foundation is interested in setting up communications with interested organizations to share information and further developments in this field. Projects with music schools and conservatoria are of great importance to this end and we welcome proposals for new inititatives.
Kyle Gann, a composer, is the author of The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, American Music in the Twentieth Century, and Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice