Born in New York City in 1944, Paul Lansky’s
early musical studies were at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. He subsequently attended Queens College, where he studied composition with George Perle and Hugo Weisgall and Princeton University, where he worked with Milton Babbitt, Earl Kim and others. Originally intending to pursue a career as a French horn player he played with the Dorian Wind Quintet in 1966-67 before going on to Princeton University for graduate studies. He has been on the faculty at Princeton since 1969, where he is now William Shubael Conant Professor of Music. Until the mid-1990s, the bulk of Lansky’s work was in computer music and he has long been recognized as one of the pioneers in the field. In 2002 he was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from SEAMUS (the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States) and in 2000 he was the subject of a documentary made for European Television’s ARTE network, My Cinema for the Ears
, directed by Uli Aumueller (now available on DVD). His music is well represented on recording (see listing on Lansky’s website: paullansky.org/disc.html
) and played and broadcast widely. Numerous dance companies have used his music including the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Eliot Feld Ballet and the New York City Ballet. His piece Notjustmoreidlechatter
is included in the Norton Anthology accompanying the widely used music appreciation text, The Enjoyment of Music
. He has received awards and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Koussevitsky and Fromm Foundations, Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest, ASCAP and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among others.
During the mid-1990s he began to turn more intensively toward the writing of instrumental music, composing works for performers such as Nancy Zeltsman and David Starobin. His Three Moves for Marimba, written for and recorded by Zeltsman, has been gaining wide recognition as one of the most challenging and rewarding pieces for this instrument. In fact, Zeltsman devotes an entire chapter of her recent book on four-mallet marimba playing to discussing this work. A recent percussion quartet, Threads, written for the So Percussion ensemble has been widely performed by that group as well as by college and university ensembles. His trio for horn, violin and piano, Etudes and Parodies, written for William Purvis, was the winner of the 2005 International Horn Society Competition. The two-piano team Quattro Mani has recorded his piece It All Adds Up, and he is currently (Spring 2007) completing a concerto (Shapeshifters) for them to be premiered by the Alabama Symphony in 2008. In 2007, Bridge Records released the 11th all-Lansky CD, Etudes and Parodies (his first solo instrumental CD) that includes a recording of the horn trio with Bill Purvis, Mihae Lee and Curtis Macomber, as well as Semi-Suite, for solo guitar, played by David Starobin, and a string quartet, Ricercare Plus, performed by the Brentano Quartet.
Lansky’s recent instrumental music eschews attempts to “break new ground,” relying instead on a fresh approach toward tonality and harmony that references musical traditions of various kinds, from Machaut to Stravinsky. His string quartet, Ricercare Plus, is based on concepts of counterpoint and part-writing from early Baroque and Renaissance music; the horn trio, Etudes and Parodies, refers to various music well-known to horn players; his choral pieces, Folk-Tropes, draw heavily on Appalachian folk-music traditions and many works, such as Three Moves for Marimba, draw on jazz and popular music (coincidentally, the English Rock band Radiohead used a sample from Lansky’s first computer piece, mild und leise, as a basis for their 2000 song Idioteque). Having scratched the itch to be innovative for thirty years with his computer music, Lansky is now primarily focused on giving live performers rewarding experiences with his instrumental music.
For more information on Paul Lansky’s repertoire as well as sound samples, articles etc., visit paullansky.org or the composer's website: www.music.princeton.edu/~paul/