It is the 60 Studies for Player Piano for which Nancarrow is best known — these pieces feature a complexity of rhythm and speed that no human pianist could ever hope to achieve. He wrote these works by punching holes in rolls of paper. By the late 1970s these studies were published and, as Nancarrow gained popularity, he wrote some works for more conventional media.
Conlon Nancarrow was a jazz trumpeter and studied composition in the 1930s. In 1937 he went to Spain to fight against Franco’s Fascist revolution. On his return to the United States in 1939, he was criticized for being a premature anti-fascist, and the US government took away his passport. He then moved to Mexico City in 1940, and spent the rest of his life there.