Paul Lansky

  • Paul Lansky’s (born 1944) 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 1965-66 before going to Princeton for graduate work. He has been on the faculty at Princeton since 1969.

    Until the mid-1990’s the bulk of Lansky’s work was in computer music and he has long been recognized as one of its pioneers. 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 his discography) and played and broadcast widely. Numerous dance companies have choreographed his works, including Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, the Eliot Feld and New York City Ballets. 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 Wallach/Reader’s Digest, ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among others.

    During the mid 1990’s he began to turn more intensively towards instrumental music, writing works for performers such as Nancy Zeltsman and David Starobin. His work, 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. (Zeltsman devotes a chapter of her recent book on four-mallet marimba playing to the work.) A recent percussion quartet, Threads, written for the Sō Percussion ensemble has been recorded and widely performed by that group as well as by many college and university ensembles. Other percussion pieces include Idle Fancies, Songs of Parting (baritone, guitar, percussion), Spirals for marimba and Travel Diary for percussion duo. 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.

    In 2008 the Alabama Symphony and Quattro Mani commissioned and premiered his two-piano concerto, Shapeshifters. Lansky was composer in residence the Alabama Symphony for the 2009-2010 season, during which time they performed his orchestral works, including With the Grain, a guitar concerto written for David Starobin and commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, Shapeshifters, and Imaginary Islands commissioned by the orchestra. A CD of his orchestral music was released on Bridge Records in 2012 including these pieces.

    Recent projects include a joint commission by the Library of Congress and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for the wind quintet The Long and Short of It. Percussion music has been a dominant focus in recent years. In addition to Threads and Travel Diary, recent works involving percussion include Springs for percussion quartet, Partita for guitar and percussion, Horizons for piano, cello, and percussion, Textures for two pianos and two percussionists, Five Views of an Unfamiliar Tune for solo percussion and chamber orchestra, and Touch and Go for solo percussion and wind ensemble

    Lansky’s music eschews attempts to ‘break new ground’ and instead relies heavily on an 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. His horn trio, Etudes and Parodies, refers to various music well-known to horn players. His choral piece, Folk-Tropes, draws heavily on Appalachian folk traditions. 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).

    For more information as well as sound-samples, articles etc visit

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    Solo Instrument
    DRM134 Idle Fancies
    Six Preludes for Solo Marimba and Small Percussion Set
    25:00 Marima solo, Percussion
    CY3440 It All Adds Up To One
    PL138 Notes To Self
    4 Preludes for Piano
    DRM140 Pandemonium
    Three Pieces for Steel Drums
    Steel Drums (E3 – A5)
    494-02733 Semi-Suite
    23:30 Guitar
    DRM145 Spirals
    Solo Marimba
    Small Ensembles
    BE10 As If
    Violin, Viola, Cello, Tape (recording)
    MXE51 Book of Memories
    Suite for Flute, Viola and Harp
    Mixed Ensemble
    20924 Comix Trips
    A Divertimento for Chamber Ensemble
    20:00 Fl. Ob.(dbl. E.H.) Cl. Bsn. Perc. Pno. Vla. Cb.
    494-02787 Etudes and Parodies
    Mixed Ensemble
    MXE55 Harmonic Gallery
    17:55 Vibraphone, Violin, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass
    MXE34 Horizons
    Vibraphone (bowed), Percussion (three small tom-toms, small cowbell or agogog bell, three woodblocks), Cello, Piano
    PL130 It All Adds Up
    Six Preludes for Two Pianos
    2 Pianos 4 Hands
    WE22 The Long and Short of It
    25:00 Woodwind Quintet
    MXE44 Partita
    Suite for Guitar and Percussion
    Guitar, Percussion (Vibraphone, Glockenspiel, Bongos, 2 Woods, 2 Metals)
    DRM139 Patterns
    (In Wood and Metal) for Mallet Quartet
    Percussion Ensemble
    CY3426 Pieces Of Advice
    Horn, Piano
    BE16 Ricercare Plus
    String Quartet
    MXE39 Songs of Parting
    for Baritone,Percussion and Guitar
    Mixed Ensemble
    DRM146 Springs
    Percussion Quartet
    MXE54 Textures
    for Two Percussionists and Two Pianists
    30:00 Mixed Ensemble
    DRM125 Threads
    For Percussion Quartet
    28:00 4 percussion
    20923 Arches
    for String Orchestra
    9:30 Str.
    20925 Imaginary Islands
    for Orchestra
    22:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 4(Eb Cl, B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    20928 Line and Shadow
    for Chamber Orchestra
    7:30 2 2(E.H.) 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    23558 Day Trips
    Concerto for French Horn and Wind Ensemble
    15:00 Picc., 2Fl., 2Ob., E.H., 3Cl., B.Cl., 2A.Sax., Ten.Sax., Bar.Sax., 2Bsn., Cbsn. – 3Hn., 3Tpt., 2Tbn., B.Tbn., Tu.; 2Perc. Cb.
    23598 Five Views of an Unfamiliar Tune
    for Solo Percussion and Chamber Orchestra
    18:00 Solo Perc.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 1 0; 1Perc. Str.
    20929 Shapeshifters
    Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra
    25:00 Solo Pno(2); 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 1 1 Perc. Timp. Str.
    21702 Touch and Go
    Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble
    19:00 Solo Perc.; 3(3 dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 4(3 dbl. EbCl., 4=B.Cl.) 2, 2A.Sax., T.Sax., Bar.Sax. – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1, Cb.; 1Perc.
    20930 With the Grain
    Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra
    23:00 Solo Guit.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
    21761 Contemplating Weather
    (on poems by Jonathan Greene)
    33:51 S.A.T.B. Choir; 1 1 1 1 – 0 0 0 0; 1Perc. Pno. Str. (

    for Percussion Quartet
    …a compelling work that’s rightly become a favorite among percussion ensembles. … Well-crafted works by an American master.
    –Ralph Graves, WTJU 91.1FM

  • Paul Lansky: Idle Fancies PAUL LANSKY: Idle Fancies
    Bridge Records (9454); November 9, 2015
    Performer(s): Gwendolyn Dease, marimba
    Work(s): Spirals
    Three Moves
    Idle Fancies
    Paul Lansky: Contemplating Weather PAUL LANSKY: CONTEMPLATING WEATHER
    Bridge Records (9447); April 7, 2015
    Performer(s): Western Michigan University Chorale, Birds on a Wire, Kimberly Dunn Adams, conductor; Meehan/Perkins Duo; Quattro Mani
    Work(s): Contemplating Weather
    It All Adds Up
    Travel Diary
    Paul Lansky: Textures and Threads PAUL LANSKY: TEXTURES AND THREADS
    Bridge Records (9435); August 12, 2014
    Performer(s): Svet Stoyanov, percussion; Gwendolyn Burgett, percussion; Ian Rosenbaum, percussion; Ayano Kataoka, percussion; Thomas Rosenkranz, piano; Michael Sheppard, piano
    Work(s): Threads
    Paul Lansky: Notes to Self PAUL LANSKY: Notes to Self
    Bridge Records (9405); December 9, 2013
    Performer(s): Odense Symphony Orchestra; Real Quiet; Mihae Lee, piano; David Starobin, guitar, Mari Yoshinaga, percussion
    Work(s): Arches
    Notes to Self
    Line and Shadow
    Paul Lansky: Imaginary Islands PAUL LANSKY: Imaginary Islands
    Bridge Records (9366); March 1, 2012
    Performer(s): Quattro Mani; Alabama Symphony Orchestra; David Starobin, guitar
    Work(s): Shapeshifters
    With The Grain
    Imaginary Islands
    Paul Lansky: Threads PAUL LANSKY: Threads
    Cantaloupe Music; January 25, 2011
    Performer(s): So Percussion
    Work(s): Threads
    Paul Lansky: Etudes and Parodies PAUL LANSKY: Etudes and Parodies
    Bridge Records (9222); March 5, 2007
    Performer(s): William Purvis, French horn; Curtis Macomber, violin; Mihae Lee, piano; David Starobin, guitar; Brentano String Quartet
    Work(s): Etudes and Parodies
    Ricercare Plus
    Paul Lansky: Music Box PAUL LANSKY: Music Box
    Bridge Records (9210); December 26, 2006
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Wordless
    Chatter of Pins
    Pavane Noir
    On F
    Two by Two
    Composition Project for Seniors
    The Joy of F# Minor
    Music Box
    Paul Lansky: Alphabet Book PAUL LANSKY: Alphabet book
    Bridge Records (9126); October 29, 2002
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky and Hannah MacKay
    Work(s): ABC
    Alphanumeric Song
    Interesting Numbers
    Pattern’s Patterns
    A is for…
    Say That Again
    As Things Were
    Folk Song
    Paul Lansky: Ride PAUL LANSKY: Ride
    Bridge Records (9103); February 27, 2001
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Idle Chatter Junior
    Looking Back
    Heavy Set
    Dancetracks: Remix
    Paul Lansky: Conversation Pieces PAUL LANSKY: Conversation Pieces
    Bridge Records (9083); September 15, 1998
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): For the Moment
    Now That You Mention It
    Same Scene, Nine Years Later
    Paul Lansky: Things She Carried PAUL LANSKY: Things She Carried
    Bridge Records (9076); September 16, 1997
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Things She Carried
    Things She Noticed
    Wish in the Dark
    Things She Remembered
    Things She Read
    Everybody Heard
    Things She Knew
    Paul Lansky: Folk Images PAUL LANSKY: Folk Images
    Bridge Records (9060); September 19, 1995
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Folk song settings for instruments and computer
    Paul Lansky: Fantasies and Tableaux PAUL LANSKY: Fantasies and Tableaux
    New World Records (CRI 683); 1994
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Six Fantasies on a Poem by Thomas Campion
    Still Time
    Paul Lansky: More Than Idle Chatter PAUL LANSKY: More Than Idle Chatter
    Bridge Records (9050); September 20, 1994
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Idle Chatter
    Word Color
    The Lesson
    Memory Pages
    Paul Lansky: Homebrew PAUL LANSKY: Homebrew
    Bridge Records (9035); April 19, 1993
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Homebrew
    Table’s Clear
    Night Traffic
    Now and Then
    The Sound of Two Hands
    Paul Lansky: Smalltalk PAUL LANSKY: Smalltalk
    New Albion Records (030); November 18, 2009
    Performer(s): Paul Lansky
    Work(s): Smalltalk
    Guy’s Harp
    Late August
    Not So Heavy Metal

  • Arches
    for String Orchestra
    Contemplating Weather
    for SATB Choir and Eleven Instruments, On Poems by Jonathan Greene
    Five Views of an Unfamiliar Tune
    for Solo Percussion and Chamber Orchestra
    Imaginary Islands
    for Orchestra
    Line and Shadow
    for Chamber Orchestra
    Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra
    Touch and Go
    Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble
    With the Grain
    Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra