Briefe Conlon, Yoko, Helen

List of Works English version
Partituren Autographen
English Texts
Briefe Conlon, Yoko, Helen
Luis Memories
E. Flores Autobiographie
Annette Margolis
Annette Fotogalerie
Das Player Piano
Das Ampico-Klavier
Konzerte mit Ampico-Flügel
Ligeti u. Nancarrow


Conlon und Yoko Nancarrows Briefe an Jürgen und Beatrix Hocker

Conlon and Yoko Nancarrow's letters to Jürgen and Beatrix Hocker

Letters from Nancarrow's first wife Helen Zimbler to Jürgen Hocker



June 3, 1987

Dear Dr. Hocker,  

sorry about the delay in answering your letter. There are many things we will have to discuss, when I am there. About your immediate questions as to which hammer rail to use, whichever has hardened hammers. I did increase the wind pressure on my pianos to about 40". However I do not think it is too important.  


Sincerely, Conlon Nancarrow.


(Ich bitte um Nachsicht für die Verspätung bei der Beantwortung Ihres Briefes. Wir müssen viele Dinge diskutieren, wenn ich dort bin. Zu Ihren konkreten Fragen, welche Hammerleiste Sie verwenden sollten - jedwede, die gehärtete Hämmer hat. Ich erhöhte den Winddruck meiner Klaviere auf ungefähr 40". Ich glaube jedoch, dies ist nicht so wichtig.)"


April 27, 1988

Dear Dr. Hocker,


Thanks for the wonderful photos. I am very glad to hear that the piano is now in a good condition. I am planning to take the other rolls with me when I go to Germany in October. Also, I am taking another roll for Mr. Ligeti's birthday. Otfrid Nies already has a tape of the piano part of the Toccata. I think you met Mr. Trimpin in Amsterdam. He works in the conservatory there and also has a studio in the U.S. He said he could bring equipments here for photocopying my rolls, but it would cost about 1,500.00 dollars plus expenses. I don't know whether I can afford that. I still don't know what our schedule is to be. Best to you and your wife from all of us, 




(Lieber Dr. Hocker, herzlichen Dank für die wunderschönen Fotos. Ich bin sehr froh zu hören, dass das Piano nun in einem guten Zustand ist. Ich beabsichtige, die anderen Rollen mitzubringen, wenn ich im Oktober nach Deutschland komme. Außerdem bringe ich eine weitere Rolle für Ligetis Geburtstag mit. Otfrid Nies hat bereits ein Tonband mit der Klavierbegleitung der Toccata...)  



Dear Jürgen,  


Thanks for your letter of May 24. We appreciate your offer of travelling with you, and we would like very much to do so if it is not too much a nuisance for you. I am trying to get the appearance in Hannover changed from Oct. 18 to Oct. 19. If it can not be done it is not very important. Also we have been invited by Réne Block to a concert in Berlin Oct. 21. I do not know whether or not you are planning to go there. Mr. Block did not mention it, but I assumend he was counting on your appearance with the piano. I guess you will hear from him. 


Also I just got a letter from Dr. Becker. He is expecting us from Oct. 11 on for various rehearsals. He mentions Oct. 11 for "the installation of the Ampico piano and its amplification system". I did not know there was to be an amplification system. In any case, I assume you will be there for that. I just heard that Trimpin, the person I mentioned previously, is getting a grant to come here and fotocopy all my rolls. He says he will bring all his equipment, and that it may take about two weeks (it is not as simple as you seem to think). I don't know when he will be able to do it. So far I have not heard from Mr. Duarte. June 21 we are invited to a festival of the 25th anniversary of AMICA in San Francisco. Best to both from all of us,



(Lieber Jürgen, herzlichen Dank für Deinen Brief vom 24. Mai. Wir freuen uns über Dein Angebot mit Euch zu fahren, und wir würden es gerne annehmen, wenn es nicht zuviel Umstand für Euch ist. Ich werde versuchen, die Vorstellung in Hannover vom 18. auf den 19. Oktober zu verlegen. Wenn es nicht gelingt, ist es auch nicht sehr wichtig. Darüber hinaus wurden wir von René Block zu einem Konzert in Berlin am 21. Oktober eingeladen. Ich weiß nicht, ob Du ebenfalls planst, dorthin zu fahren.


 Herr Block erwähnte nichts darüber, aber ich nehme an, dass er mit Deinem Erscheinen und dem des Pianos rechnet. Ich vermute, Du wirst von ihm hören. Außerdem habe ich gerade einen Brief von Dr. Becker bekommen. Er erwartet uns am 11. Oktober für verschiedene Proben. Er erwähnte außerdem den 11. Oktober für das Aufstellen des Ampico-Flügels und des Verstärkersystems. Ich wusste nichts davon, dass dort ein Verstärker-System sein sollte. In jedem Fall nehme ich an, dass Du dort sein wirst. Ich höre gerade, dass Trimpin, die Person, die ich kürzlich erwähnte, einen Zuschuss bekommt, um hierher zu kommen, um all meine Rollen zu fotokopieren. Er meint, er würde seine gesamte Ausrüstung mitbringen und es würde etwa 2 Wochen in Anspruch nehmen. (Es ist nicht so einfach wie Du glaubst.) Ich weiß nicht, wann er in der Lage sein wird, dies zu tun. Bis jetzt habe ich noch nichts von Herrn Duarte gehört. Für den 21. Juni sind wir zu einem Festival aus Anlass des 25jährigen Jubiläums der AMICA (Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association) in San Francisco eingeladen. Beste Grüße an Beide von uns allen,





Dear Jürgen:


First, thanks for the deposit in a local bank, second, I never received any royalties from Peter Garland nor Hanser-Strecker [for publishing the scores]. I own the copy-right of my pieces.


Last, but not least, is to decipher the letter you received about the different concerts for the festival [Musik und Maschine - Nancarrow und Ligeti in Köln, 17th of October 1988]. I gather that the first concert will be with you and the piano. But I still do not understand what the others concerts will be like. The second concert will be Charial and me.  

I don’t understand what the piano will be doing during that time. I gather that the pianos will be live, but who is going to be playing them (and what)? The third concert seems only mas vague. If you can decipher these concerts, would you please let me know about them.

Best to you and Beatrix. Yoko has been meaning to write you, but she has been very sick. Fortunately she is getting better.  

Best Conlon   [Not datet]



Aug. 29,1988

Dear Jürgen:  


Thanks for your letter. I am glad to hear that the rolls arrived safely. When we get there  I will explain to you why the proposal of Mr. Duarte for copying the rolls is not very practical.

Our son Mako is not going with us this time. Of course we would like to go with you from Cologne to Hamburg to Hannover. René Block said he would arrange for transportation from Hanover to Berlin and from Berlin back to Cologne.  

I hope you enjoyed your vacation in Spain. Best regards to you and Beatrix from all of us, - Conlon


Dec.9, 1988

Dear Beatrix and Jürgen,


I can't tell you how much we enjoyed your company, and how much we appreciate all of the things you did for us. I am sorry about the delay in writing. Shortly after our return I had a bad attack of bronchitis and was in bed for some time. Later Trimpin came and spent a week copying the rolls. He now has the complete information of all the rolls on his computer programs. As it is now he can play the pieces on the vorsetzer which he invented (it fits on the top of the keys of any piano). For building the instrument that can copy and punch the rolls from the programs he is trying to get a grant for it because it will be quite expensive. He says that with that instrument he can punch a copy of a piece of mine that took six months to punch, in thirty minutes. In any case he is going to write to you explaining all the details.


 The Almeida festival in London is going to do a concert of my music this summer, and they want you to go there with your piano. Also, the New Music Festival for 1990 is going to be in Canada, and they want to fly you and the piano there (and of course with your technician). They may have called you by now. I gave them your phone number. Some time in the future you may have to resign from Bayer and devote yourself full time to your career as a concert pianist  [....] - 

Best to all from both, Conlon  


Auch Yoko schrieb - unabhängig von Conlon - wenige Tage später einen Brief:  

Yoko wrote several days later:


 ... Well, we are still talking how wonderful it was the whole trip in Germany. We know that without your company, it wouldn't be so pleasant. Frankly I was worrying quite a bit, before, of traveling a long distance by car, with the tight concert schedule, but thank (mainly) to both of you, everything turned out to be so nice and pleasant ...Looking through the fotographs, I can immediately perceive how much Conlon was enjoying with you both. I hope sincerely that we will be able to see you again soon somewhere in the world ... It will certainly be an unforgettable trip for both of us. Thank you again, hoping to see you soon.


10th of December 1988

Love Yoko  



Dear Jürgen: 


Just a note. Very busy. The cassette arrived, and the sound of that hammer rail is perfect. I would suggest that if you want an extra one modify the other metallic one to make it the same. Jörg did a wonderful job on the piano (and his English is rapidly improving). I hope you understood the things in the package I sent. The German reviews were ones that you did not have in the scrap-book you sent me. Also, you wanted to see some copies of my punching scores. Best to you and Beatrix, also Jörg,





27.09.89.  Dear Jürgen: 


Of course: we are expecting you in April. Also, we would like to have you stay in our house (unless you would be expecting very luxurious quarters). Later please let us know the details of your arrival including your flight number. I think your proposal for the two-piano arrangement is very complicated. The answer to that and other problems is easily solved by Trimpin’s Vorsetzer, which is a simple piece that sits on top of the keyboard of any piano. Also, it is electronically controlled as a hundred pianos could be synchronized perfectly. In November I am going to the New Music America festival in New York, where there will be several concerts with me and Trimpin. He is taking his Vorsetzer and will do various arrangements of some of my pieces for four pianos and various percussion instruments, of which he has made many. When you come we can discuss these problems in more detail. (At the same time in New York Ursula Oppens is going to give the first performance of a piece for piano which she had commissioned me to do). I have heard no more from Toronto. I have a feeling that since the N.Y. festival is doing a similar thing they have dropped the idea. I hope the concerts in Warsaw went well. Best for you and Beatrix from both, Conlon  



Am 21. März 1990 schrieb Yoko Nancarrow einen Brief, in dem sie über die schwere Krankheit Conlons  berichtet:


The 21th of March 1990 Yoko reports about Conlon's serious health problems:



  Letter from  Yoko,  21.3.1990.

  Dear Beatrix and Jürgen,


  This is the first letter which I have written since 3 months ago. We certainly had very difficult and anguished moments. At some point, we almost lost our hope, because his health problem was getting more and more complicated. But fortunately, Conlon survived his most difficult test, test of life or death. As you may have imagined, Mako and I have passed days after days of franticness ?? and exhaustion between the hospital and home.

This letter sounds long and maybe a bit boring for you.  But I feel I should write to you what exactly happened to Conlon.


Conlon’s general health condition had not been well for some time, very probably due to his badly done prostate operation. As you know, he had a second operation at the end of last October. He had such a great illusion, that with that operation, his problem will be resolved, which did not turn out true. For one  thing, the anesthesia affected his right leg. His urination problem continued to be a problem. Besides after 3 weeks from his operation, the doctor gave him a permission to go to New York. The trip was too precipitated and too overwhelming for Conlons fragile health. It was quite hectic and draining for both of us. We came back exhausted and worn out to Mexico.


... Beside by that time, I found out that I had several health problems. For these, the doctor prescribed a lot of medicines and a stiff corset with metal bars, which I have to wear all the time. He prohibited me driving cars.


Unfortunately, more or less at the same time, Conlon was developing prostatitis and he became more and more depressed. He was so deeply depressed that he forgot everything, which made him convince that he was suffering Alzheimers disease...


In fact, until the day before, I was not certain whether we should cancel Theos filming. But the same urologist told us that Conlon could get distracted by that. But, it had been too much a stress for Conlon, even though they are very nice an thoughtful people.


Just an idea of many people in and out of the house was enough to make him exhausted. I saw him tired and tense. By the time they finished filming (one week), Conlon was also finished exhausted physically and emotionally.


 As you know, he is quite different from other people. Things like filming for other people is a distraction and fun: for Conlon, it was a stress and strain, even with a friend like Theo. He got terribly ill the 16th, the day after we came back from Acatlipa. That day, a friend of mine and I went to see some regional museums for the purpose of five hundred years of Americas discovery exhibition at Smithonian Institution, Washington D.C. According to the maid’s story, he went to his studio around the noon time, saying that he is going to shave his beard. Then he didn’t come back. Apparently, while he was struggling for connecting his electric shaver in a very uncomfortable position, suddenly he could not get up; so he decided to stay on the very cold studio for more than an hour, calling Mako. Finally, by chance, the maid heard him calling Mako’s name desperately. Then she went to the studio to help him get up and bring him home. I have a slight feeling that at that moment Conlon has suffered a very mild stroke in his left brain. The maid told me that he could hardly breathe.


 Anyway, by the time, we came back from Toluca, Mako was back already. He took his father to the bed, but Conlon was having very difficult time for breathing. His physical Condition was so weak, that he could even move his body in the bed. Then he stayed one week in bed, taking again very strong antibiotic. [...] Unfortunately, my physical condition was also at the worst point: with my back problem, pressure on finishing an article and my dissertation, attending people, etc. So taking care of Conlon has then been a terribly exhausting task. By the end of the week, when Conlon was already feeling much better, walking down to the living room and doing a bit of exercises, I was totally worn out physically.

Then we canceled our trip to Berkeley/Calf. and Seattle: Both of the concerts, that Conlon had been expecting for such a long time. Of course, that made him quite depressed. Though with all this, his health was really improving.


On Sunday 21th, Theo and Berndt visited Conlon to say good bye and get their stuffs left in Conlon’s studio. Unfortunately, Berndt was in the most contagious stage of a grip, which affected many Mexicans this winter. This grip was an especially aggressive and nasty one. Many people got seriously ill. Well the very next day, Conlon got violently ill again; a lot of cough, fever and lung congestion. Any kind of respiratory sickness makes Conlon very ill, because of his bad lung condition. [...]


Tuesday, I called again the same young doctor from the hospital to check Conlon. He came and told us that Conlon had grip, prescribing him only coughing medicine, which turned out to be extremely irritant for the stomach. By that day, he could not tolerate any food; remitting everything, also having diarrhea. They made him even weaker. And the same night, we had to take him to the hospital, under this doctor’s responsibility.


Maybe that was the greatest mistake we committed. We found out that he was not a neumologist (his elder brother is so), but a general doctor. Since then he stayed 10 days in the hospital. The doctor told us that Conlon’s condition was not serious, and that he might leave the hospital in few days. Though, he could not convince me very much, because all those days, Conlon was not quite alert nor conscious enough. He spent most of the time asleep and did not look quite well. The doctor told us that Conlon’s problem was due to arteriosclerosis. [...] With all this and the test of electrolyte, which clearly shows that Conlon had very low sodium, potassium and calcium, the doctor sent Conlon home the 7th. The doctor said that he did every thing that the hospital can do. Conlon should be home, and be taken care by his family. I saw him in bad state.

In spite of the doctors opinion, we hired an ambulance, because he could not stay sitting.


 In the ambulance, he vomited. After we arrived home, his condition became even worse during the same afternoon. Then I finally convinced the old neumologist to come and examine him. [...] When he finally came around 7.00 p.m., Conlon was already in a critical state. He was semiconscious. He detected that he had vascular problem, which affected his right side of his body.


Beside, his electrolyte was so low that it’s causing a sort of metabolic coma. The nest morning, the 8th, he told us that Conlon had to be sent to an intensive care to the hospital. Since then he stayed there for 12 days. For the first few days, the doctors didn’t see much hope for survival. [...] He was developing rapidly bronchial pneumonic and kidney deficiency. [...] Meanwhile we got in touch with another doctor [...] the neumologist finally pulled Conlon out from this crisis.


Unfortunately, by this time (that was the fifth hospitalization for Conlon in less than a year), my health and emotional conditions were in the worst shape. I felt totally isolated, desperate, helpless, impotent etc. etc. And I’m so sorry that I had to call you in such a lamentable state, causing you problem. As you know, Conlon decided to stay anonymous in Mexico, so he really does not have many friends, who will be able to give some support (emotionally). All of his friends (or almost) are outside of Mexico. I thought if Conlon hears his friends voice, he would got more supported. So I called several friends in the States (USA) and to you in Germany. [...] Anyway, finally Conlon left the hospital at the 26th of February. Since then, he is slowly getting more strength physically and mentally. At the beginning he was incoherent in thought. But now (21th of March) he is very alert; though sometimes he has a little trouble with memory. We have one day nurse and one night nurse.  [...] But day by day, he is getting better. Now he comes down stairs; eats with us; do several times walking in the garden. [...]

Frankly speaking, I don’t know what I could have done without your and my family’s financial help. [...] Before Conlons brother used to help us a bit, but (this is still a secret that I haven’t told to Conlon), he had recent a colon cancer operation, so he was not in a financial condition to help us.


This morning, 16th of March, John Cage called us; he said he just received a letter from Herbert Henck about Conlon. He offers any financial aids for Conlon. I said, we are surviving so far with the help of a German friend and my family’s. But he insisted that any time, we need help, we should call him. He wants to help Conlon, he said. He is really a wonderful person (always he has been so).


P.S. By the way, Suite Coyoacan is reserved for you. Hoping to see you , soon.




22 nd of June, 90

 Dear Beatrix and Jürgen:  

Time flies away. Since you left, it had passed already two months. We all felt very sad after your leave, even though we could not be able to attend you the way we would like to do. Your visit was, in retrospective, very positive for all of us. We felt more animated. It is always a great pleasure to welcome our friends whom we appreciate deeply.  


 Since then we have been trying our best, so that his health would be well enough to go to Italy, country which he was very anxious to visit and to meet you again there. He had really a great illusion to attend the concert [VIII Rassegna di Nueva Musica, Macerata, 5th of June 1990]. As you have seen, at the beginning his recovery was quite fast and much better than what the doctors have thought, taking in consideration that his condition was extremely critical. Though since you left Mexico, his progress has been some what slow.


 This 26th of June, it will be 4 months since he left the hospital, but his health condition still goes ups and downs. Often he has to take antibiotics. On top of it, he had a serious teeth problem. His only molars have come off, so he had to eat with his front teeth. For two months we have been eating ground meat and other soft goods. It has been a nuisance. Finally, 2 weeks ago, he got his new teeth. Now he can chew, though it still takes some time to get used to his new false teeth. I feel sometimes desperate as I see him weak, depressed and impatient. Still I am trying my best.


  So you can imagine how much disappointed he was, when he decided to cancel the trip. But  I know that he just didn’t feel well enough to make such a long trip. Anyway Stefano [Scodanibbio] sent him a telegram, so we know that the concert went well.  


  I have been trying to encourage him as much as possible. I thought when he is able to go to his studio, he will be better physically as well as animically. That was the main reason that I decided to clean his studio at all cost. Since you left, Mako, Angela and I have been trying to clean without other people’s help. We easily threw away 20 big garbage bags, but he work was endless. It was really overwhelming, as you can imagine.


 Finally we decided to call the company. They sent 6 people every day. Plus, Mako, Angela, Carlos (he may be visiting you, there; because he will be in Germany) & I worked with them from morning till night. It took one week to finish cleaning and they took the amount of 3 trucks of garbage, old magazines, etc.  


By the time we finished cleaning his studio, library, workshop & upstairs, we were materially exhausted. It seemed an impossible task, but finally we accomplished it. Before I promised to Conlon that he will be able to use his studio from the beginning of June, so we did it.  


  Since then, Conlon has used his studio 4 or 5 times. Little by little. Each time 1 or 1 ½ hours. At the beginning, he was furious and desperate, because he could not find things as they were before. It is true that we have throne away some of the strips (temporal scale). Finally he decided he had to do those again. He said, it may be less time and work to do them again than

try to find them. He was a bit discouraged at the beginning. But I insist on him working on his music. I know that he will not be able to live without his music. But also he needs a lot of energy to create that music, which he does not have yet. Psycologicaly & animically, though, Conlon still is not very strong, since he gets new and old health problems one after another. Physically he is still quite delicate, which does not help him emotionally. […]  


  These two last weeks he has been doing better; then suddenly the last Sunday afternoon, when we were planning to go out to take an espresso coffee at a bookstore nearby with a friend of ours, he started to urinate with blood. […]


 Finally, I could get in touch with the urologist, who saved his life, when Jörg [Borchardt] was here, last June. He came to examine Conlon & prescribed another antibiotic. Fortunately this doctor could come, otherwise we might have been in a terrible situation. His bleeding has stopped by the next day […]. 


But since then Conlon’s anaemic condition has been down. He is fed up with one sickness after another, and one medicine after another. I understand him and it heart me so much seeing him like that, but I can only encourage him to overcome that state of being. It is very hard for all of us.  


Conlon has, still, every day his physiotherapy lesson, which, I think, helps him a lot. His body coordination is better now […].  


  How have you been? We miss all of you. Please let us know how was the concert in Italy. I really wish to see you and appreciated all your advice both of you have given me. Well I should stop here, since I have to go to get Conlon’s medical result.


Best - Yoko  



18th January 91

Dear Beatrix and Jürgen.  


  I have been meaning to write you even before you called us. But all the last three months, I have been terribly busy finishing my Ph. D. thesis; many details which took me a lot of time. Then, I had to look for a place, so that Conlon could be able to escape from the terrible pollution, which every year accentuated around the Xmas time. (People become crazy for Xmas shopping and new year’s eve party). Through our friend we found a very nice place for renting at Cuautla; (1300 ms) about 1000 ms lower than Mexico City; warm, beautiful climate, but 102 kms away from Mexico City, which means a lot of driving for me.

We came here (I’m writing you from Cuautla) to spend my Xmas vacations. […] 


As you know, Conlon is a very determined person. So if he thinks, he can not do, (even though he is capable to do), he does not do any effort. Then I have to give double or triple energy to move him one step forward. As the doctor said, his health has improved day by day; but he gets more and more depressed; he thought he can not compose. And I know he will be; just he has to be patient and little by little, he will be able to do something with music. But for that, he has to work hard; step by step. The doctor thinks he has quite a good possibility to recover; just he has to work for it. But when you are depressed, everything looks so dark and no solution. I have tried all my effort. […]  


  Mako came back on the 10th. He had a wonderful time in Japan. Also his coming back gave a great pleasure to Conlon. Mako helps me in cheering Conlon. Young people are full of energy and happiness, which sometimes transmit to us. He has a very hard schedule this year, but still he has a little time for us too.  


  The other day Nuritza Matossian came to interview Conlon. She is doing several radio programs from Dutch Radio Station. Conlon enjoyed talking with her. […]  


From Norway, they have never called Conlon. So who knows. If his recovery continues like this, I think, soon he will be able to travel to some place quite far away from Mexico. I hope so.  


Soon we are going to have 20th anniversary (wedding); I asked Conlon my anniversary pliant: you know what “make his effort to combat against his depression”. He said he will do it. I hope so. Otherwise, Conlon is much better, now I have to think of myself a bit more.  


Do you know what happened to Theo [Jansen]? Did he finish his [film]editing? He mentioned to make a contract with Conlon in last August. But no news. So who knows what had happened to him. We are so far away.  


  I hope we will be able to see you again soon; I will keep on informing you about the progress (I hope) of Conlon.

  Love for all your family



P.S. Apparently Conlon has started to compose some; he asked for a piano roll. I hope he continues.




Dear Jürgen:  


I’m sorry about the delay in writing, but I have been very busy. I hope that all is well with you and Beatrix. I don’t think it is possible to synchronize the two pianos. Whenever I recorded them I had to play them several times until I got the right results.  

I don’t see any reason why this person from Bayer can not copy the rolls you mentioned.

I am thinking of taking a roll to France that I have just finished ( I have just started to work again). It is a very short piece, about one minute of duration. It is called “Para Yoko”.

I hope that you and Beatrix are doing well. We look forward to seeing you again in France.

Best greetings  




Nach unserem gemeinsamen Parisaufenthalt schickten uns Conlon und Yoko sechs Fischteller mit einem Briefchen: 


Jürgen & Beatrix

I hope you will remember the always wonderful time we had with you. Thank you

Conlon & Yoko. Paris, 26.10.1991



3rd of December,1992

Dear Jürgen:  


Finally we came back from Texarcana the 18th of November. Our stay over there (almost seven weeks) has prolonged more than we thought. As we have mentioned to you some time ago, we had some family problem after Charles’ [Conlons Brother] death […].  


  We enjoyed clean air, very little traffic and efficiency of a little town. Conlon and I walked twice a day around the neighbourhood surrounded with trees. Each time we walked more than half an hour. It was surprising how much was the difference between Mexico City and there. Conlon does not have to sleep with oxygen tunk hooked to his nose like he does in Mexico. He did not have to take rest nor stop during our walk. He could even run. Texarcana is a small town of 60.000 inhabitants and it has both good and bad things, characteristics of a town of that size. But after all, Mexico is our country: We have already made our roots here. At the end, we were anxious to come back to this polluted, but somehow irresistibly attractive Mexico.  


  Conlon has been considerably well, though, from time to time, he gets depressed. It is hard for us (Mako and I) to convince him that he can be able to have a creative life. It is true that he has much less energy than before and that making a music like his requires a lot of energy and concentration, but I am also convinced that he can still be able to write more music.  


  […] Originally, we were planning to go to Texarcana in the beginning of September, but Trimpin called us that he was coming to Mexico on the 19th of the same month, so we postponed our trip until the 25th […] Obviously, he does not compose music nearly as much as before, but he uses his studio every day. He enjoys Carlos company, who respects Conlon’s way of being. In fact Carlos is the only person who knows everything in Conlon’s studio. He is the only person who can get into his studio without Conlon’s permission or when Conlon is not at home […] 


So when we knew you were in Mexico and that you wanted to copy some rolls, Conlon told to Carlos to be responsible for it […] Anyway, it was a shame that we did not know you were coming to Mexico and that we missed you. We could have a wonderful time, now that Conlon is in al better health (except that his vision got worse because of cataract on his left eye).  


  Recently Conlon was nominated by The American Academy and Institute for Arts and Letters as a honorary member (there were 75 honorary members in the world, Ligeti is one of them). We had a simple but very warm and friendly ceremony at the American Embassy in Mexico City. Thank you very much for the chocolate. They are wonderful and we are still enjoying them. Also thank you for the wonderful photos. Charles Amirkhanian did a morning concert on KPFA on Conlon’s 80th birthday. He interviewed Conlon by telephone. He had wonderful calls from several people. Some of our friends in Texarcana invited us for the celebration. During our stay in Texarcana, the local Texarcana Gazette wrote an article on him, and the local public radio did a program on him with an interview. We promised to send more writings on Conlon to the local museum. Schott Foundation gave Conlon an award of ten thousand dollars., which came in a most needed moment. 


Well, thanks to this award, we could rebuild our entrance wall, which was virtually falling down. We also had to repair outside wall of Conlon’s studio, which was also falling apart. Since we did not have done any maintenance work before, our house needs a lot of repairing.  



  Next year (November), ISCM festival will be held in Mexico: probably Carlos is going to do an exposition on Conlon. Arditti will come to play some of his music, according to the telephone call from Irvin Arditti the other day. I am in a sabbatical year, so I have more flexible time schedule, though I have to finish writing a book before the end of the year. Conlon says that I am busier now than other time.  


  Hoping that the next time you come to Mexico, we will be able to see you and enjoy our reunion.  


  Regards to Beatrix - Love Yoko



May/June 93 (?)

Dear Jürgen:


It was a pleasure to hear from you. I am sorry that I did not get to write to you sooner so you could give the money to the person who is coming to make the picture.  


I don’t look forward to the filming of the picture. He is sending an enormous amount of people who will be all over the place.  

To make matters worse I have been having a problem with vision. I finally decided to have my eyes investigated, and discovered that I have enormous cataracts. I have to have an operation, but can not do it until the picture is over. And to make matters worse after they finish the picture, Japan wants to do another one. I gather that this one is not as complicated as the first one.  

A strange thing happened. At the same time the BBC in England wanted to do another one, but decided it was too much, and so they cancelled it. I was very pleased.

I am glad to hear that you are doing well in spite of the activities you have to do. I have been getting quite a few letters from Peter Garland during his long excursion of several years that started in Australia.  


Best to you and Beatrix from Yoko and Conlon  


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Letters from Nancarrow's first wife Helen Zimbler to Jürgen Hocker

Briefe von Nancarrows erster Frau Helen Zimbler an J.H.


Dear Dr. Hocker,

Your photos were much appreciated, especially the one with you and Conlon - I was curious to know how you looked - handsome and young indeed. Also wondered how Yoko looked - she’s very pretty. Alan Hovhaness is an american composer of armenian style music. I have some songs he wrote but never wanted to learn them. He lived near us in Hemenway and I remember Conlon and I visiting him and his wife (at the time). He has been played by Symphony orchestras in his country now lives out West. I doubt they kept in touch.

I tried to reach another friend of that period, Lowndes (?) Maury - she studied with Schoenberg at Malkin Conservatory (one of three pupils he had in his short stay in Boston). I learnd at the library that hi is dead for quite some time. Edith Sitwell (?) was a distinguished British (?) poet - Wallon (?) set her poems to music. Conlon and I both enjoyed them.

I called Conlon an his last birthday. He said he had not studied with Schoenberg.

Enclosed you’ll find the wedding cert and a page from divorce. I asked for my maiden name to be returned (Helen Rigby). My volunteering at the Art Museum includes cataloguing their many music instruments, and for their big benefit sale I’ll be in charge of all the music records.

Also enclosing a news clip from Boston sent to me by my oldest friend there, Grace Deeran. She was in a woman’s orch with me that went to play in Montreal and Quebec when I was married and living with Conlon. She wrote me that she never met him. Think (?) she has forgotten. If you come to the US to see publishers or to promote your book do come and visit me.

My best

Helen Zimbler       (undated, Feb. 1991)


Dear Dr. Hocker,

Conlon and I were married the first day 1932 and we lived together in Cincinnati and Boston until about the 1st day of Sept. 1935, when I separated from him to remain alone in Boston, much to my parents distress divorced him (by publication) since he was in Europe. This was Mar 5, 1940 in Houston Texas where I was playing bass in the Symphony. I was born June 27, 1914. Conlon, Oct 27, 1912. I was not yet quite seventeen when I married. You might say Conlon was magnetic, charismatic. He was playing trumpet in the conservatory orch and I was playing bass. He began to walk me home. Later he came to my home with his trumpet and I accompanied him on the piano playing "Carnival of Venice". He played very well. He would discuss Schopenhauer and Kant - I was impressed. His first gift was a volume, leather band of Shelly's poems. He visited me in Cinti (?) coming from Europe and bringing me a strand of amber leads and a large bottle of perfume. Somehow we didn't blend anymore, perhaps my fault. In Boston Conlon studied music at the Malkin Conservatory. Schoenberg was his teacher for a short time when he lived in Boston. Another teacher was Arthur Fiedler. Conlon worked as a conductor in the W.P.G. after I left him. I supported myself by playing bass viol in orchestras, meanwhile studying with a member of the Boston Symphony. Soon I was playing in the W.P.G. Symphony which played for four hours a day, six days a week covering much repertoire - even opera. The conductor gave me a job in the Houston Symphony where I was it's youngest player and on the first stand. On the way to Houston (1936) I stayed with Conlons family and met his lovely mother and his brother who charmed me. I was entertained royally. You have triggered many memories with your inquiry. I could go on and on but I realise the book is about Conlon. I still talk on the phone with Charles, his brother, and hear news of Conlon and recently phoned Conlon, spoke briefly with him. He then wrote me a short note, thanking me for the call. He is very ill – perhaps you know. I hear his son is very special to him as well as Yoko. I hope all this is of help - write me if you need to know more.

Sincerely   Helen Zimbler. (undated - August 1990)

(I married Josef Zimbler, a cellist in the Boston Sym. in 1939. He died 1959.)

Dear Dr. Hocker,

when I called Conlon on this recent birthday (Oct. 27) he insisted that he had never studied with Schoenberg. Will your book be published in Germany and will it be available here in English - when will it be finished? I also called Charles that day and he plans to visit Conlon. My telephone splurge (Aufwand) also included Annette in New York - she told me John Cage had given 10.000 $ to Conlon but didn't say when. I hear Conlon's piano music was performed at Bouling Green College - don't know pianist name. I found three piano pieces published in 1938 in New Music Magazine, sent them to a performing friend at Bouling Green where she teaches. Are you a musician yourself - a medical Dr.? The Public Radio here plays his recordings from time to time.

My best,

Helen Z.                                                                  (undated, ca. Dec. 1990)


Nov. 1991 (?)

Dear Mr. Hocker.

Conlon and I met in Cincinnati at the Conservatory of Music Orchestra when he played trumpet and I was a bass player, still a senior in high school. When we married I was almost seventeen, he was nineteen. We lived in my family until that fall when we left for Boston where Conlon hoped to get a job in the Symphony (he played trumpet very well) but the position was given to the son of the 1st trumpet player Theo-(Voisin) (?) Conlon enrolled at Malkin Conservatory where he studied conducting with Arthur Fiedler, composition with Roger Sessions and I believe for a short time with Arnold Schoenberg (he says he doesn’t think so). He paid his passage to Europe, to France playing jazz trumpet on an ship and studied at the Sorbonne one summer. We were still married. He decided later to go to Spain to fight with the Loyalists, I decided it was time to go it alone, for several reasons. My parents wanted me to come home, sent my grandfather to see me as a persuader - he found me living in a furnished room, with a scholarship at the New England Conservatory to study bass with a member of the symphony. I was soon working as a musician, not earning much but enough to live simply. Got a job playing in a W.P.A. project (Works Progress Administration) Sym orch. which played 28 hours a week – much Symphonic literature learned. Conlon also earned money thru (through?) the W.P.A. for a while as a conductor, I believe. The conductor I worked for was Ernest Hoffman and when he got a job with the Houston Sym, he took me for the first stand bass. Conlon & I didn’t correspond. I got a divorce in Houston by publication Mar 5,1940, and didn’t know if Conlon was dead or alive.

I had stopped to see Conlon’s mother and brother in Texarcana, Ark. They were hospitable and friendly (this was on my way to Houston before the divorce).

Conlon and I were married May 1, 1932, lived together in Cinti till that fall when we left for Boston (by bus), we seperated in Boston in the fall Sept. 1935 – my divorce was in 1940.

I wonder sometimes if you get the mail I send – hope this reaches you.


Helen Zimbler


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