Meet "Joe", the hardest working man in show business, as he pulls out all the stops in his virtuoso performance of 12th Street Rag, on what *may* be the world's last surviving Cremona Photo-player [PDF]. On the other hand, it might be just a run-of-the-mill player piano with some extra bells, whistles and car horns tacked on. At any rate, "Joe" is absolutely killing it. Go, "Joe", go!
Old records wear out, and sheet can't really describe the swing of jazz, ragtime and blues—but a good player piano roll captures the style and rhythm of a live performance and preserves it for generations to come. [more inside]
Marc-André Hamelin composed Circus Galop for the player piano. Performing it is impossible for a mere pair of human hands, but two people have tried to fake it until they make it. Another has transcribed it (or half of it, perhaps) for one player. Often, people will run it through a MIDI sequencer of their choice, to make a lively animation. Some have built Arduino robots that perform it. But, in the end, the best medium for a work this insane is the humble, yet manic player piano (less manic, but clearer-sounding performance here). Hamelin himself has run his composition through one, managing to get his television host to start dancing as the closing credits fade out...
A favorite of John Cage and Gyorgy Ligeti, the latter describing his music as "so utterly original, enjoyable, perfectly constructed but at the same time emotional...the best of any composer living today," Conlon Nancarrow's musical ideas were nevertheless too complex and technically demanding for human performers, and his political ideas too radical and leftist for McCarthy-era America. Expatriated to Mexico, the Texarkana-born avant-gardeist lived most of his life in isolation, in a cluttered, dusty studio surrounded by records, piles of books, empty Vodka bottles, newspapers, cigarette cartons, and the tools of his trade: 2 old player pianos and a custom-built piano roll press. [more inside]