Nancarrow came up with an interesting solution to the problem. The idea was for "Study No. 48" to be a player piano duet. He achieved this through the magic of recording. “48a” and “48b” are the two halves, which appear separately, and “48c” combines them, the way had always intended them to be heard.
Works on Rolls closes with three 1983 compositions which initially belonged to the largest work of Nancarrow’s career, The Betty Freeman Suite. At the Los Angeles premiere in January 1984, the Suite was comprised of five movements. When he heard the Suite performed, Nancarrow did not like it. He revised it by dropping two of the movements, and shuffling the running order. The resulting Suite became (in order) "Study No. 46," "Study No. 45d," and "Study No. 47."
When it comes to the avant-garde, sometimes the theoretical concepts of a work can overshadow the music itself. A famous example of this is John Cage’s 4' 33" (sometimes called Silence). In performance, the musician sits down in front of his piano and plays nothing at all for the duration of the score. The “music” is the sound of the audience murmuring among themselves, shuffling their programs, and other extraneous sounds.
Nancarrow’s music has been described as “brittle,” “cacophonous,” and “unorthodox.” “Easy listening” is definitely not a term that most people would associate with it. So know what you are getting into. To be honest, I was initially attracted to Nancarrow’s work primarily because of the gimmick of it being composed for player piano. But after hearing it, I found the music to be wildly adventurous and highly intriguing.
Whatever your motivations are for listening to Nancarrow’s music, I think it is a marvelous thing to expand one’s musical horizons. He was a true original. The German record label Wergo has done an outstanding job with Late and Unknown: Works on Rolls and the single CD collection is highly recommended.