Contents of the music library by title, author and editor

Remarks :

  • I wrote this text in Mexico City, 1991-92

  • Notes in [brackets and blue] are my recent comments to this old text.

  • The complete  Conlon Nancarrow 's studio belongs today to the Paul Sacher Foundation, in Basel. I decided to publish this text for the purpose of curiosity and diffusion, just for the Nancarrow's Fans. Further, up to date, precise information should be consulted at the archives of the P.S. Foundation.

  • This information is quite reliable just because it reflects the studio as it was in Mexico, not as it is now in Basel. If you decide to quote it, please do it this way: "Carlos Sandoval, Nancarrow's studio and libraries in 1991-92: a general description published in"


1. Introduction


2. The studio, a general description by sections

   2.1. The Magazines Section

   2.2. The Player Piano rolls shelve

   2.3. The Archives of Letters and Documents

   2.4. The musical instruments and player-piano machinery

      2.4.1. Musical instruments

      2.4.2. Actions and supplies


3. The General-Topics Section ( 43 sections and one magazines section )


4. The Records collection

   5.1. European Music

   5.2. Contemporary Music

   5.3. Ethnic Music

   5.4. Popular Music


5. The music library, a general description

   6.1. Volume

   6.2. Languages

   6.3. Antiquity

   6.4. Dedicated

   6.5. Quantity per section

   6.6. Physical condition


 1. Introduction


This is an overall description of Conlon Nancarrow's books and records collections [as I found and catalogued them in the years defined in the head of this article]. In addition, it attempts to portray his studio and work environment. It is significant that Mr. Nancarrow worked in complete solitude from 1940 to nearly 1985 —so alone in fact, that his wife was not even familiar with his studio until quite recently. Therefore, the studio as I found it reflected the “complete” and “untouched” trajectory of the composer : since his first readings and attempts in percussion-like player-piano music, to the last results: a complete collection of more than 6500 books, and more than 65 player-piano rolls, punched by him.


[ The overall condition of the studio was terrible : thousands of news papers as old as 20 years; many one-meter high (or more) piles of books; dust everywhere, thousands of manuscript scores, punching scores, sketches, letters, rolls, records, magazines, tools, piano supplies... it was like a contemporary Leonardo da Vinci's abandoned workshop. It looked like if Nancarrow was unaware of anything but reading, punching rolls, smoking, drinking and making music. I found several hidden, full or empty bottles of cheap vodka, many very old packets of non-filter Cuban "Partagαs" cigarettes (he gave me some, and they still are the best cigarettes I have never smoked) and countless miscellanea of things. This was the only and most interesting "office" I have never worked in. (I am a freelance composer)]


The work environment of Conlon Nancarrow occupies nearly a third of the house itself. It is divided in three main rooms:


—The studio (with complete sound-isolation. Includes the music-related library, two player pianos, his worktable and other different furniture, archives, work tools...)


—The workshop (where he used to construct his player-piano-based percussion instruments (ca. 1948) and punch his player-piano rolls)


—The general-topics library, with a records section and a small sleeping room and "office".


Finally, there is also the "storeroom", behind the studio walls, which contains a good number of old player-piano mechanisms (15?) and actions (10?), a considerable number of percussion instruments (Part of his mechanized percussion orchestra. Some of them were exposed at the UNAM-hommage concert series curate by me), a lot of trash, old recorded tapes, some desiccated marihuana he uses to grow and smoke with his friend John Langley behind his studio (1) —and other curative plants, not at the exhibition. There was also a wine cellar.


(1) Annette's Memories Written for Dr. Juergen Hocker in 1991, Revised by Luis Stephens 2005


Although Mr. Nancarrow arrived in Mexico from the United States with a considerable number of books, the main part of his library was acquired [in old book street markets and specialized bookstores, there were some very good at that time] in Mexico City. His collection comprehends mainly books from the United States, UK, France, Germany and Latin America, in quantitative order. Mr. Nancarrow was an insatiable reader. Around the 50's, he had subscribed to nearly twenty different magazines, mainly about music, science, philosophy and psychology. In the words of Peter Garland, he was perhaps one of the most informed composers of his generation; the word “isolated” then, applied to him is truly pejorative. He was in touch with some heads of the modern-experimental American tradition of his former and actual generation: Cage, Carter, Cowell and Slonimisky among others. Most of them knew and recognized his talent and originality, as it is reflected in some of his correspondence.


Nancarrow divided his 6500 volumes library in two sections: the MUSIC SECTION and the GENERAL TOPICS SECTION. He decides to put all the music-related books INSIDE his studio.  The organization in sections is original by Nancarrow, as I found it in the shelves.



2. The Music-related library [ca. 1700 books]


Section 1 (ca. 190 books).

— Musical instruments: history of; construction of; catalogs of; essays on; manuals of.

— Sound theory of; acoustics of; psychophysics of; engineering.


Section 2 (ca. 155 books).

— Orchestral instruments.

— The orchestra.

— Musical instruments: wind; percussion; bells and carillons.

— Instrumentation: history of;

— sound: physics; engineering; hearing; acoustics; theory.



Section 3 (ca. 190 books). 

— music: psychology; beauty of; therapy of; theory of; essays on; contemporary; conducting; dancing; miscellanea.

— Composers: Stravinsky (37); American; others. 



Section 4 (ca. 220 books)

— Music: technology of; essays on; contemporary; computers and; philosophy of; experimental; research in; traditional forms in

— Rhythm: tempo and; structure of; theory of

— Harmony. Theory and treatises

— Records: catalogues



Section 5 (ca. 147 books)

— Dictionaries: Grove's (1889 edit., 4 volumes; 1954 edit., 9 volumes); oxford companion to music, 7th edit.; encyclopιdie de la musique et dictionnaire du conservatoire, 1922, 11 vols.;


— Music: history of (60).



Section 6 (ca.180 books)

— Dictionaries: grove's (1947 edit., 5 volumes)

— Music: essays on; miscellanea.

— Traditional music: history of; essays on; instruments of;

— Early music: essays on.



Section 7 (ca. 120 books)

— Traditional music: history of; Mexico; Java; Arabia; India;

    China; Spain; African countries; Hungary (5 big volumes); others.



Section 8 (ca. 180 books)

— Jazz (60): history of; essays on. 

— Traditional music: essays on; percussion in; black; Cuba; Brazil; and other Latino American countries.



2.1. The studio


Section 1


— Journal of the American musicological society (a.m.s.) 20 volumes, ca. 1948-52

— Journal of renaissance and baroque music (carepetyan, pub.) 4 volumes, ca. 1946

— Mvsica disciplina (American institute of musicology) 7 volumes ca. 1950.

— Musicology (m & h publications) 7 volumes, ca 1947.

— Music and letters (Eric Blom. pub.) complete collection from 1958 to 1967.

— Notes (musical library association) complete collection from 1945 to 1960.

— Soundings (P. Garland, pub.) complete collection.

— The musical antiquary (oxford) 10 volumes ca. 1910

— The musical times 15 volumes ca. 1930.


Besides in this section:


— Miscellaneous mini-scores (Mozart, Bartσk, Stravinsky and others)  

— Miscellaneous scores (mainly contemporary music)



section 2

— Journal of music theory (Yale) 25 volumes ca. 1958-69.

— La revue musicale (nouvelle revue francaise) 6 volumes 1923-39.

— Modern music (the league of composers & Lederman) complete     collection.

— Neutral mϊsica (Mexico) 3 vol., 1946-42; 12 vol. 1949-52.

— Perspectives of new music (Boretz) 15 volumes, ca. 1963-72.

— Revista Musical Chilena (Chile) 14 volumes ca. 1951-57.

— Source (bmi) 9 volumes, complete collection.

— The score (Glock) 15 volumes, ca 1950.

— The music index (info. serv. inc.) 6 volumes ca. 1949-62

— The music index, subject heading. (info. serv. inc.)  15 volumes, 1962.


section 3

— Musical quarterly (lang) ca. 70 volumes containing issues from 1925 to 1974 complete.

— The music review, ca. 90 issues.



2.2. The player piano rolls shelve Consist of 70 different rolls and 10 test rolls.


2.3. The archives of letters, documents and original scores


Archive 1: Personal correspondence (1991-92), in alphabetical order. 

Archive 2 : Life and work: original photos (pro-level): Amirkhanian, Charles; Freeman, Betty; Ugolini, Marco and others. Photos in general: friends, family, Nancarrow’s parents, concerts, and with people, miscellaneous 

Archive 3 : Business correspondence (1970-90) in alphabetical order: 

— Arch records

— Bauer (1988)

— BMI (1982, 1985-90)

— Cal performances

— CBS records (1968, 1970-74, 1983, 1988-90)

— Columbia, Canada (1974)

— Cunningham (1970)

— Media (radio and television)

— Ensembles

       kronos (1982- 83, 1985)


— Festivals, seminars and congresses (Diverse)

— Guggenheim

— Hansen editions

— Institutions universities, colleges and conservatories

— Mac Arthur foundation

— Memberships and subscriptions, associations, reviews

— Music and arts

— New world records (1980-82, 1987-88)

— G. schirmer (1988)

— Smith publications (1990)

— Peters (1980-82, 84-86, 87-90)

— Schott 1985-90

— WDR1980-1990

— Eva Soltes (business letters)


Archive 4 : Musical work: 

— original scores, studies for player-piano (final and punching scores), chamber music, Sketches of unknown pieces     

— published scores, Player piano studies, Chamber music


Archive 5 : personal correspondence (1960-90.) 

In chronological order by year; and alphabetical by names.


Archive 6 : On the composer's work 

— Concerts programs (1977-90)

— Concerts programs without date

— Articles in newspapers and magazines (1962, 1976, 1979-90)

— Articles in newspapers and magazines without date

— Essays and analysis on composer's music (1962-90 (books, reviews, thesis, manuscripts, interviews, critics and others)



2.4. The musical instruments and player-piano machinery. 

2.4.1. Musical instruments. This "section" is not quite determined. In general, consist of percussion instruments, cymbals and drums. There still some instruments built by Mr. Nancarrow himself (ca. 1945-50).


2.4.2. Actions and supplies. 

There are many player-piano actions and piano supplies. A complete inventory will be available soon.


3. The general-topics section (ca. 4700 books), a general description.

Section 1 (ca. 70 books)

— Poetry: Essays on.

— Literature: Essays on.

— Literature: Diverse


Section 2 (ca. 140 books)

— Literature: Diverse.


Section 3 (ca.185 books)

— Literature: Diverse


Section 4 (ca. 160 books)

— Literature: Diverse

— Literature: Mexico, and other Latino American countries (70)


Section 5 (ca. 160 books)

— Time: essays on; philosophy of; science and (60).

— Human behavior: Diverse

— Ethics: Diverse

— Philosophy: Diverse


Section 6 (ca. 130 books)

— Philosophy: Diverse


Section 7 (ca.140 books)

— Psychology: Diverse

— Human mind: Diverse

— Psychiatry: Diverse


Section 8 (ca.110 books)

— Psychology: Diverse

— Human mind: Diverse

— Psychiatry: Diverse

— Hypnosis: Diverse


Section 9 (ca. 135 books)

— Psychology: Diverse

— Psychiatry: Diverse

— Hypnosis: Diverse

— psycho-pathologies


Section 10 (ca. 145 books)

— Psychology: Diverse

— Psychiatry: Diverse

— Hypnosis: Diverse

— Human behavior.


Section 11 (ca. 86 books)

— Psychology: Diverse

— Psychiatry: Diverse

— Hypnosis: Diverse


Section 12 (ca.87 books)

— Psychology: Diverse

— Psychiatry: Diverse

— Human behavior.


Section 13 (ca.90 books)

— Psychology:


Section 14 (ca.90 books)

— Coffee: essays on; culture of; history of.

— Smoking: essays on; culture of.

— Tea: essays on; culture of.

— Insects and animals: diverse.

— Literature: Diverse


Section 15 (ca.80 books)

— Alcohol and drinking: essays on; culture of.

— Drugs: essays on; culture of; history of.

— Agriculture: Diverse

— Sea: Diverse


Section 16 (ca. 125 books)

— Spices and herbs

— Cooking

— Nutrition


Section 17 (ca. 21 books)

— Scientific American (ca. 375 issues)

— Mathematics and sciences


Section 18 (ca. 155)

— Relaxation: essays on (17).

— Mathematics

— Sciences

— Cybernetics


Section 19 (ca.70 books)

— Plants: essays on; history of; culture of; medicine with;

— Cooking: diverse

— Nutrition: diverse


Section 20 (ca. 174 books)

— Sciences

— Astronomy

— Physics

— Medicine


Section 21 (ca.70 books)

— Plants (from different countries)

— cooking (traditional, from many countries)

— Nutrition


Section 22 (ca. 160)

— Philosophy of science

— Human perception

— Science and society

— Home medicine


Section 23 (ca. 90 books)

— Cooking: traditional; health and;

— Diverse


Section 24 (ca.130 books)

— Literature: diverse

— Sociology

— Human communication and culture

— Philosophy of science


Section 25 (ca.85 books)

— Science and communication (7)

— Cooking


Section 26 (ca. 100)

— Cooking (80)

— Literature: diverse

— Philosophy: diverse


Section 27 (ca.80 books)

— Human mind

— Languages of the world

— Grammars (different languages)

— Dictionaries


Section 28 (ca.85 books)

— Languages

— Linguistics

— Dictionaries

— Encyclopedia Britannica (11th edition) 


Section 29 (ca. 75 volumes)

— Dictionaries (different languages)


Section 30 (ca.100 books)

— Traveling and tourism

— Traditional cultures


Section 31 (ca. 120 books)

— Sexual relations and behavior

— Sex: essays on; cultures and;

— Eros and porno: diverse; essays on; art and;


Section 32 (ca.

—Art: essays on; philosophy of; history of

—Aesthetics: diverse


Section 33 (ca.120 books)

— Oriental studies

— Yoga (55)


Section 34 (ca.150 books)

— Human behavior: diverse

— Literature: diverse

— Psychology: diverse


Section 35, Magazines:

— Revista de la Universidad de la Habana (ca. 1935-42)

— Speculum, (ca. 1948-50)

— Hijo prσdigo, (ca. 1943-45)


Section 36 not available


Section 37 (ca. 180 books, rustic)

— Literature: diverse


Section 38 (ca.170 books, rustic)

— Literature: diverse


Section 39 (ca.230 books, rustic)

— Literature: diverse


Section 40 (recording tapes: ca. 60)

— Nancarrow's music (50)

— Diverse


Section 41 (ca.70 books)

— Diverse


Section 42 (ca.90 books)

— Diverse


Section 43 (ca. 30 books)

— Organ (music): essays on; history of;



— The American organist (ca. 1918-23)

— Le temps modernes (ca. 1955-62)

— Crisol (ca. 1925-31)


4. The records collection


( Most of the records are very old, but in good condition )


4.1. Center-European music 100 records (45 rpm)

4.2. Contemporary music ca. 70 records

4.2. Traditional music from original cultures. ca. 500 records (45 rpm)

4.3. Popular, urban music ca. 100 records (45 rpm)


5. The music-related library


5.1. Volume of books: 1500, aprox.  


5.2. Languages

Books in Spanish: 163

Books in French: 157

Books in German: 47

Books in Italian: 9

Books in Portuguese: 5

Rest of books in English


5.3. Antiquity

Printed before 1900: 34 books

Printed before 1850: 2

Printed before 1800: none

Printed before 1750: 1

Rest, printed after 1900


5.4. Dedicated by author: 9 books


5.5. Quantity per section

Acoustics  56 books

Dance and music  25

Dictionaires and encyclopedias  23

Essays on music  337

Engineering, broadcasting, media and music  18

Ethnic and traditional music  291

History of music  118

Instrumentation of music 16

Jazz and blues  81

Mind, psychology and music  17

Musical instruments, catalogues of  24

Musical instruments, manuals of  37

Musical instruments, history of  61

Musical instruments, essays on  93

Musicians: biographies and essays on  89

Performance of music  37

Rhythm, time and music 27

Technology and music  17

Theory of music  59



6. 98% of books in good condition. Rest, in regular or bad condition.