Polansky, Larry

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Polansky, Larry

Polansky, Larry , American composer, music theorist, writer, and teacher; b. N.Y., Oct. 16, 1954. He studied anthropology and music at New Coll. in Sarasota, Fla. (1974), and subsequently studied mathematics and music at the Univ. of Calif., Santa Cruz (B.A., 1976), and undertook graduate work at York Univ. in Toronto (1977). He finally majored in composition at the Univ. of Ill. at Urbana-Champaign (M.A., 1978), and also studied composition privately with James Tenney, Ben Johnston, and Ron Riddle, jazz guitar with Chuck Wayne, George Barnes, and Michael Goodwick, bluegrass mandolin with Frank Wakefield and Paul Kramer, and jazz theory and improvisation with Lee Konitz. He performed and arranged pieces in various styles, particularly jazz and folk, on guitar and other plectra, piano, and electronics (from 1966). He was a dance accompanist (1977–81), and composed works for the choreographers Ann Rodiger and Anita Feldman. He worked as a computer programmer, systems analyst, and studio engineer (from 1975). He taught at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. (1981–90), where he also was involved with its Center for Contemporary Music (1981–87; interim director, 1988) and directed its Contemporary Performance Ensemble (1981–86). In 1990 he became an assoc. prof. at Dartmouth Coll., where he also co-directed its Bregman Electro-Acoustic Music Studio. He is married to Jody Diamond , with whom he founded and directed the American Gamelan Inst. and also ed. its journal, Balungan. Together they also founded the publishing firm Frog Peak Music, A Composers’ Collective. His own compositions reflect sophisticated technical concerns in acoustics, intonation, and morphological processes; they are generally in variation or canonic forms, based on single ideas worked out in textures that sometimes resemble those of minimalism. His 51 Harmonies for Percussion Trio, Live Computer Electronics, and Electric Guitar (1994) was commissioned by Cologne’s Westdeutscher Rundfunk. In 1995–96 he held a Fulbright Senior Scholar/Teacher Fellowship in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2000 he received a Parsons Fund Grant from the Library of Congress for research preparatory to a monograph on Ruth Crawford Seeger. Polansky’s extensive articles and reviews have appeared in the Journal of New Music Research, Perspectives of New Music, Computer Music Journal et al. He served as music advisor ed. to the journal Leonardo (from 1985) and assoc. ed. of Perspectives of New Music (from 1988); he also authored HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language), a widely used computer music language, as well as the books Early Works of James Tenney (1983) and New Instrumentation and Orchestration (1986).


(selected listing): Silence Study #4 for Joe Pinzarrone for 4 Actors and Violist (1976); Four Voice Canon #4 for 1 to 4 Marimbas (1978); Quartet in F for Paula Ravitz for Piano, Viola, Clarinet, and Trombone (1978); Will You Miss Me for Untrained Man’s Voice and Harrison-Colvig “transfer” Harp (1978; also for Flute, Double Bass, Harrison-Colvig “transfer” Harp, and Untrained Man’s Voice, 1980); Unhappy Set of Coincidences for Richard Myron for Guitar and Bass, Flute and Bass, or any 2 Melody Instruments (1979); Another You, 17 variations for Harp in just intonation (1980); Four Bass Studies for Double Bass (1983); Sascha’s Song (for the peoples of Chile) for Tape (1983; also for Tape and 7 Instruments); Three Monk Tunes for Tap Dancer and Percussionist (1983); Four Voice Canon #5 for 4 Percussionists (1984) V’leem’shol (…and to rule…) (Cantillation Study #2) for 5 Flutes (1984); Milwaukee Blues for 2 Tap Dancers and 5 Saxophones (1984); Conversation, electronic installation (1985; in collaboration with J. Levin and R. Povall); Hensley Variations (Guitar Trio #1) for Flute, Viola, and Harp (1985); (al het) (for the people of Nicaragua) for Soprano and Percussionist (1986); (B’rey’sheet) (in the beginning) (Cantillation Study #1) for Voice and Computer (1986); Buy Some For Spare Parts, live (HMSL) computer music installation (1986; in collaboration with P. Burk); Simple Actions, computer installation and performance (1986); Study for Milwaukee Blues for 3 Tap Dancers or 3 Percussionists (1986); The Time is Now for Voice, Flute, Clarinet, Viola, Guitar, and Bass, to a text by Melody Sumner (1987); 17 Simple Melodies of the Same Length for Clarinet and Melody Instrument and Computer (1988); Bedhaya Sadra/Bedhaya Guthrie for Voices, Melody Instruments, Kemanak, and Gamelan (1989; rev. 1990); Lonesome Road (The Crawford Variations), 51 variations for Piano (1989); Horn for Horn and Live Computer (1990); Three Studies for Performers and Live Computer (1990); 51 Melodies for 2 Electric Guitars and Optional Rhythm Section (1991); …slippers of steel for 2 Electric Guitars and Computers (1991); Roads to Cimacum for String or Mandolin Quartet (1992); Two Children’s Songs for Tuba and Trombone, 2 Tubas, and 2 Bassoons (1992); Study: Anna, the long and the short of it for Tape (1993); 51 Harmonies for Percussion Trio and Electric Guitar (1994); Four Voice Canon #9a (anna canon) for Tape (1994); The Casten Variation for Piano or Piano and Ensemble (1994); Always cut off the baseline for Trumpet and Live Electronics (1995); for jim, ben and lou, 3 pieces for Guitar, Harp, and Percussion (1995); Anna’s Music Box, children’s MIDI software piece (1996); Parting Hands for 2 Percussionists (1996); II-V-I for 2 Electric Guitars or Guitar Solo (1997); Neighborhoods of Note for 2 or 3 Suzuki Pianists (1997); all things, beings, equal for Saxophone (1998); Approaching the azimuth… for Clarinet (1998); Cinderella for Flute (1998); Piker, 5 movements for Piccolo (1998); Essays for String Quartet, 1–3 (1999); 3 Shaker Songs for Electric Guitar and Voice (1999); Killing Time, real-time Java-based computer work (2000); 3 New Hampshire Songs for Chorus (2000); 2 Shaker Songs for Large Ensemble including Voce and Electric Guitar (2000).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire