This article was originally published on Cleveland.com
by Daniel Hathaway
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — If Conrad Tao and The Cleveland Orchestra were being paid by the note for their mind-boggling performance of John Adams’ “Century Rolls” at Blossom Music Center on Saturday evening, the Musical Arts Association might well have flirted with bankruptcy.
The centerpiece of a program that included Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Something for the Dark” and Jan Sibelius’s “First Symphony,” Adams’ 1997 work was inspired by the 20th-century technology that fueled player pianos and other musical devices, from street organs to mechanically bowed violins.
Slots punched onto long rolls of heavy paper fed through a playing mechanism, pneumatically activating levers that produced notes. While pianists have only ten digits at their disposal, you can punch as many slots into a paper roll as you have notes to play them, and superhuman feats become possible.
Not only possible but astonishing in such a live performance by human musicians as this one — perfectly coordinated by the cool-headed conductor David Robertson. [Read more…]