Conlon Nancarrow: Virtuoso of the Player Piano
Produced by James Greeson; Associate Producer: Dale Carpenter; Narrator: Robert Ginsburg
Photographers: James Greeson, Janet Greeson, Joel Paul, Trey Marley and Dale Carpenter
Although little known in the Americas, Conlon Nancarrow is considered 'one of the greatest composers of the 20th century' in Europe. Born in Texarkana, Arkansas, he left to fight against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's and during the Communist 'witch hunts' of the 1940's he emigrated to Mexico where he lived the rest of his life focusing on his highly sophisticated, but viscerally exciting musical creations for the player piano. In 1982 Nancarrow was awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” This film, in honor of the centennial of his birth in 1912, features performances of his exciting music, a premiere performance of a recently discovered piece, and interviews with his friends and supporters
"Just watched the documentary and I absolutely loved it! I was enthralled throughout and thought it is the kind of film that works for a fan like me and for someone who has never heard of Nancarrow."
—Dominic Murcott, Director Nancarrow Weekend Festival Southbank Centre, London UK
"I just finally watched the 'fine cut.' It's 2 in the morning but I couldn't turn the thing off! You have done an absolutely fantastic documentary!! It is just wonderful in all respects, the visuals are magnificent, I think, as is the musical quality, as are the interviews. I loved it from beginning to end, every bit of it. What a tour de force and what a sensitive rendition! It had a kind of softness to it and kindness to it, while still being very complete and poignant, and including almost everything one would want, including watching those rolls roll by. I mean I was spellbound. And I think it's the kind of documentary that Conlon would have really appreciated and loved."
—Luis Stephens (Conlon Nancarrow's stepson)
"I peeked at your video on a very busy day, fully expecting to get a feel for it but to watch it in its entirety later. But...I couldn’t stop watching! Bravo to you. I loved the opening segment, the images of the player pianos, the historic images. What depth of research."
—Dr. Libby Van Cleve, Director, Oral History of American Music Center, Yale University Library
"The film is very impressive. And you have new information (like the ceramic drum info from Luis and the nice graphics with the rolls you employ in explaining Study No. 11) that makes the film an instant classic."
—Charles Amirkhanian, Composer & Record Producer, Executive & Artistic Director of Other Minds
DVD: NTSC (All regions)
BONUS FEATURES: Over 30 minutes of extras including performances of Nancarrow's Study No. 25 and Study No. 40b, a demonstration of how player pianos work, and other insights into his world.
James Greeson is a professor of music at the University of Arkansas and the composer of over 15 documentary film soundtracks. His music for the film The Buffalo Flows was awarded a regional Emmy award 2009. Greeson has been fascinated with Conlon Nancarrow's music since his high school days in St. Louis, Missouri, and first met Nancarrow in 1983 in Mexico City when he and his wife Janet interviewed him. Some of the still photos and audio clips of Nancarrow’s comments used in the documentary date from that day at Nancarrow’s studio. This is Greeson’s first documentary film and it was written and produced as a centennial tribute to this Arkansas native.