It was the product of an ingenious single-mindedness that led Nancarrow to discover a completely new and fantastically unreal world of acoustical presentation: a sort of hyper-virtuoso cross-fertilisation between compositional complexity and pianistic exactitude that makes listeners feel as if gravity has been suspended.
The truly extraordinary thing about Nancarrow's Studies is their wholly unique way of handling musical time. The mechanical precision and flexibility of the automated piano enabled Nancarrow to invent a form of music whose metrical intricacy and contrapuntal textures advanced into uncharted musical territory. This highly innovative element sometimes contrasts sharply with other parameters of his music, especially melody and harmony, which often seem far more beholden to tradition. This aspect merits attention in light of Nancarrow's curt remark in an interview he granted to Charles Amirkhanian in Mexico City in 1977. Asked why canon was so important to him, he replied that complex time progressions were easier to follow when the melody remained the same everywhere. To which we might also add: when the musical fabric of the parts is not overly complex.
So Nancarrow found a solution to human fallibility and musical inaccuracy using player piano and now there are many examples of musicians arranging Nancarrow for their instruments, but this is the first time he has ever been transcribed for voice. I transcribed all the rolls, choosing to use as the basis of the transcriptions only my own voice. Because I wanted to maintain a unity of sound that is harder to do with multiple voices that puts the accent on the rhythm and not the pitch or vocal timbre. I also wanted to present my voice as machine a kind of post cyborg mezzo soprano. Second time I performed Nancarrow Karaoke live at the CTM festival Berlin, I was asked by another singer why I didn’t write the arrangements for choir where the range of the voices was bigger rather than for my own voice. I explained about wanting to keep the unity of sound. Also, though I could have gone down the route of finding a chorus or voice ensemble crazy enough to learn Nancarrow polyrhythmic lines and dizzying tempi, but I would probably still be waiting for that ensemble to agree to it! And as with everything I do, I don’t rely on anyone, I work solo, I am 100% fundings free!