[FISEA’93] Artist Statement: Conlon Nancarrow – Canon X (Study #21)

Artist Statement

CanOn X is a ‘transciption’ of Nancarrow’s Study #21 for player piano. Originally, composed on piano rolls, the composition explores an algorithm which is in tune with today’s concepts of computer generated musical forms. The analysis and recreation of the composition was done by Rick Bidlack (Banff Center, Canada) with a program written in the C lanuage and which executes the same algorithm as Nancarrow’s and outputs the result in the form of a MIDI sequence.

The work derives entirely from a fifty three-note sequence which undergoes a series of repetitions, transformations (progressive concatenations) and simultaneous¬† transpositions. During Part I, the sequence undergoes this series of transformations and transpositions which takes the “left hand” from a slow tempo to a fast tempo while the “right hand’ simultaneously moves from a fast tempo to a slow tempo. Thus, a ‘crossing’ of tempos occurs. During Part II, the “right hand’ slowly performs the orignal sequence once while doubled at the fifth octave. At the same time, the “left hand” performs all fifty three iterations (including all previous transformations and transpositions) at a rapid tempo.

Rick Bidlack, analysis and C language transcription

  • Colon Nancarrow (1912 -1997) was an American exile living in Mexico. His catalog of compositions was principally for player piano (the main performing venue he had available). He was a pioneer in applying algorithmic concepts to musical form. His work was included in this program as a tribrute to his artistic vision.