Yoko Sugiura continues her quest to share the legacy of Conlon Nancarrow

▲ In the image, the anthropologist Yoko Sugiura, third and last wife of the artist.Photo Yazmin Ortega Cortes

Angel Vargas

Newspaper La Jornada
Monday, June 13, 2022, p. 7

The personality of Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) is far from that bohemian image that is usually built around an artist. He was someone who liked solitude, even being half a hermit, but never urano. The only thing he wanted and sought was space and time to develop his work as a composer.

Simple and detached, Nancarrow never sought the spotlight or fame, nor was he interested in transcending posterity. So much so that he never worried about the fate of his works, the mechanical pianos he adapted to play them, or his personal archive.

He didn’t care if they were destroyed. She said that for him they were things that had fulfilled his function, that he had already created, shared and enjoyed them, and that with that he was taken for grantedaffirms Yoko Sugiura, the third and last of his three wives, with whom he shared his existence between 1969 and 1997, the year he died.

This 2022 is relevant in terms of ephemeris related to that composer of American origin, but naturalized Mexican in the 1950s, considered by many – among them his colleague Györgi Ligetti – one of the great innovators and revolutionaries of musical art of the 20th century. . On the one hand, August 10 marks his 25th death anniversary, while October 27 marks 110 years since his birth.

The Japanese-born anthropologist has not heard of any relative commemoration with that pair of dates, neither from Mexico nor abroad, as it happened with the centenary, in 2012, when various activities were organized in the country, the United States, Germany and France.

The same thing happened with the 20th anniversary of the death, in 2017, which in our country was commemorated, among other instances, by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) with a great tribute within the Vértice Festival: Experimentation and Vanguard.

Trimpin, a German sound artist, with whom Nancarrow maintained a work and friendship relationship of more than a decade, in which they created machines that reproduce music and challenge the possibilities of human execution, participated as a special guest.

For Yoko Sugiura the most important thing, points to the day, is to preserve and spread the memory, the human example and the creative work of her husband. Within her reach are the first two items, since the third, she says, is in charge of the Paul Sacher Foundation, from Switzerland, which in 1997 acquired the personal archive of the composer.

There are several paths through which the researcher seeks to fulfill her mission. On the one hand, she hopes to finalize the sale of the Nancarrow House-Study, designed by Juan O’Gorman, to a foundation so that it can turn it into a cultural space, a subject discussed a few days ago in these pages (the day, 03/17/22).

On the other hand, recently, he donated to the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico an important library on gastronomy made up of Nancarrow.

There are nearly 800 books on food, not only about recipes, but about its history and philosophy. There are them from different parts and times, even from 1750details the specialist, who comments that she is now looking for institutions for the vast editorial collections on philosophy and psychology.

Why do we want that material if no one else is going to use it? That’s why I’m looking for where to donate it. The Sacher Foundation kept everything related to music. He only picked up a search of the books of the other subjects that also interested him to have an idea of ​​where his music could also come from.he points out.

bio on door

Something little is known is that my husband had an interest in many fields of knowledge, from physics and astronomy to history, fictional literature and hypnotism.highlights Yoko Sugiura, who reveals to this newspaper that she has been writing a biography of that musician for two years.

Without a deadline to complete the work or a proposal from any publisher or institution to publish it, it will cover from some passages of Nancarrow’s childhood and his disagreement with formal school education to his participation in the Spanish civil war, his other two marriages, his arrival in Mexico in 1940 and what he did in the country since those years.

For this work, the author has relied on testimonies that she has collected over time from friends of Nancarrow –some of them famous, such as composers Aaron Copland and John Cage–, as well as what she shared directly with her husband. in the years they lived together.

My husband never wanted to talk about himself, he tried to keep his personal life separate from music. He didn’t care what they wrote about his life; the result is that there is a lot of bad information circulatinghighlights.

He was not interested in fame. He needed to be anonymous to concentrate on his music. His way of conceiving life was unusual. I admire him very much, because he was a person of principles, as well as very humane and kind.