A native Arkansan, CONLON NANCARROW studied music in Cincinnati, eventually making his way to Boston during the mid-1930s, when Serge Koussevitzky was such a powerful force. While there, Nancarrow studied composition privately with Roger Sessions, Walter Piston, and Nicolas Slonimsky. He also discovered Henry Cowell’s New Musical Resources and began exploring its harmonic dimensions of intervals expressed as rhythms and stacking tempos like pitches in a chord.
Meanwhile, Nancarrow’s curiosity for the still nascent Socialist political associations on the East Coast inspired him to volunteer for the famous Lincoln Battalion, ultimately traveling to Europe to defend Republicans against Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. As World War II commenced, the United States (under the ardent guidance of J. Edgar Hoover) adopted a policy reflecting high suspicion toward the expatriates of the Lincoln Battalion, even hindering their efforts to reenter the country. As a result, Nancarrow moved to Mexico City, residing there for the rest of his life, only occasionally visiting the United States.
— From notes by Gregg Wager