Conlon Nancarrow (October 27, 1912 – August 10, 1997) was an American-born composer who lived and worked in Mexico for most of his life. He became a Mexican citizen in 1956.
Nancarrow is best remembered for his studies for player piano, being one of the first composers to use auto-playing musical instruments, realising their potential to play far beyond human performance ability. He lived most of his life in relative isolation, and did not become widely known until the 1980s.
“This music is the greatest discovery since Webern and Ives… something great and important for all music history! His music is so utterly original, enjoyable, perfectly constructed but at the same time emotional…for me it’s the best of any composer living today.” – György Ligeti (in a letter to Charles Amirkhanian)
“Conlon’s music has such an outrageous, original character that it is literally shocking. It confronts you. Like Emerson said of Thoreau, ‘We have a new proposition.” – John Cage (from On Conlon Nancarrow, Eva Soltes)
“The stuff is fantastic… You’ve got to hear it. It’ll kill you.” – Frank Zappa (from Musician, with Dan Forte).