Three-and-a-half billion years of evolution of life on Earth have finally culminated in the ultimate collection of atoms: Larry Polansky! First appearing in the Holocene epoch within the Quarternary period of the Cenozoic era (or 1954 to be more precise), Larry is a composer, theorist, teacher, performer, programmer, writer, editor and publisher who has been working since the 1970s at places like Mills College, Dartmouth and the University of California Santa Cruz, where he is currently gainfully employed. He’s also the Emeritus Strauss Professor of Music at Dartmouth College, co-director and co-founder of Frog Peak Music (A Composer’s Collective), and was a good friend with–as well as a student of–James Tenney, not to mention a tireless promoter of the latter’s music.
Released in 2002, Change was Larry’s fourth album as a leader, featuring works from the mid-1970s to the mid-’90s. “Several of the pieces were composed with a computer using formal, mathematical, and HMSL software morphing techniques. The composer refers to these works as his ‘morphing pieces’ and they all explore musical change in diverse and strange ways. The various compositions include music for Western and Indonesian instruments, voices and computer, solo piano, electric guitar and rock band.”
Opening up the program with “Bedhaya Guthrie/Bedhaya Sadra” for clarinet, kemanak and Central Javanese pelog gender, a gently quirky sounding rhythmic structure supports a homely melody, producing an atmosphere that is somehow both academic and meditative at the same time. (Oddly enough, one of the two tunes featured in this piece was written by Woody Guthrie!) The mellow mood continues with “Choir/Empi’s Solo,” in which stately clouds of wavering drones composed of layers of heat-treated female vocals are showered with some barely audible singing thrown down low into the mix.
The meditative mood of the first two tracks is broken up by “The Casten Variation,” a boisterous piece for computer-composed solo piano brimming with brisk, cascading melodies and non-melodies alike. Next up comes “Three Anna Studies,” featuring the voice of the composer’s daughter, Anna, treated with a program called SoundHack. Launching with “Study: Anna, the long and the short of it,” a pitch-shifted and time-stretched baby cry offers up a brief bunch of cut-up chaos. It kind of sounds like one person plays one note on a recorder while someone else takes a partial stab at covering “Jingle Bells.” “Three Anna Studies,” continues with a mensuration canon called “Four Voice Canon #9b (6:7:8:9) (“Anna Canon”),” which offers up more woozy whistles stabbed with a strange chirping sound. “TAS” concludes with “Study: baa baa birthday have you any star?” in which children sing happy birthday with layers of their voices smeared on top for an overall eerie effect.
The mood of the CD shifts radically again with another computer-composed piece called “51 Melodies.” Accompanied by bass and drums, two guitarists fill the air with the electricity of rock as they trade sweet licks that sound so cheesy and cliché. But, underneath the surface, they wring a series of complex melodies that gradually go out of whack with each other until the piece descends into–and at times back out of–a shambles. This is a song that only a fan of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica could love. For the ender, the goofy mood of “51 Melodies” gives way to “Piano Study #5 (for Just Fender Rhodes),” a gorgeous, subdued piece for a Fender Rhodes piano tuned to just intonation. This is one of the most entrancing and strangely melodic pieces Larry has ever composed, bringing the mellow mood of the beginning of the CD back into aural view. Do you have any spare change? If so, you may want to use it to buy a copy of Larry Polansky’s Change. This small transaction may very well kick start an economic revolution that will change the way life on Earth evolves in the future! Okay, maybe not.
Label: Artifact Recordings Catalog Number: ART 1023 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 6 Total Time: 57:09 Country: United States Released: 2002 More: Dartmouth, Forced Expousre, Frog Peak, UCSC, John Walters
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