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Smalltalk

Paul Lansky

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Album Review

Paul Lansky is a Princeton-based composer who specialized in computer transformations of speech and naturally occurring sounds. The most successful cuts on this disc, Smalltalk and Late August, take samples of everyday conversation (the first in English between Lansky and his wife, the second in Chinese) and run them through a program that masks certain characteristics, leaving others. This results in speech-like cadences and inflections but with no perceptions of actual speech sounds aside from the occasional sibilance. A fascinating, dreamy image emerges as though one is hearing conversation through a light sleep. These pieces walk the line between science experiment and art, but manage to have enough aesthetic resonance and mystery to succeed. The remaining compositions take other instruments as a sound source (bluesy harmonica and ostensibly heavy metal guitar) and work various processes on them. Part of the problem is that the two sourced musicians (especially guitarist Steve Mackey, who sounds like an academic slumming in a populist genre) do not come through as interesting in and of themselves. Lansky's electronic elaborations on their playing add little of interest to the already meager material; again, it sounds like an Ivy Leaguer deigning to tiptoe in the streets, and the results are predictably timid. He would have been better off enlisting the services of Eddie Van Halen and Toots Thielemans!

Biography

Born: 18 June 1944 in New York, NY

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A pioneer in the field of computer music, Paul Lansky was formally educated first at Queens College, then at Princeton University, and studied under such teachers as George Perle, Hugo Weisgall, Milton Babbitt, Earl Kim, and Edward Cone. He was the horn player for the Dorian Wind Quintet, and has worked for such schools as the Mannes School of Music, Swarthmore College, and Princeton University, as well as being visiting professor for several other universities. He has won several awards, including...
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Smalltalk, Paul Lansky
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