In the early 1950’s, Conlon Nancarrow devised a concept for an automated musical machine similar to the player piano that instead of hitting strings would play percussion instruments. He developed a number of devices that would translate punched roll compositions into a “percussion orchestra”, without much success. Instead, he recorded stock drum beats of which a small portion was used in his only musique concrète work: Piece for Tape (undated).
After more than 60 years, some of the tapes have been rescued from his studio, restored, and sent to Berlin-based composer Nils Frahm who has rearranged the sounds to create a nine-week-long composition that functions as the soundtrack to the exhibition.
FELD was commissioned to develop the installation concept and was responsible for the technical process as well as the execution of the final sound installation.
This installation puts Nancarrow’s practice - read more broadly, from beyond the confines of just the music world - into perspective. It is composed of Nancarrow’s original papers and reproductions, as well as works by other artists that accompanied him, personally or remotely, in his practice. Rescuing tapes, tuning a piano, and writing and re - writing letters are among a number of other contemporary gestures, which act as narrative joints that advance the missing links in this museographical essay, including a composition (the length of which spans the entire duration of the 8th Berlin Biennale exhibition) by pianist Nils Frahm, who has rearranged Nancarrow’s never previously heard stock percussion recordings.
Artists: Mario Garcia Torres, Nils Frahm
Photos: Anders Sune Berg and Jens Ziehe