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Larry Polansky: The World's Longest Melody

Polansky,Larry / Callier / Troch
Release Date: 07/13/2010 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80700-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Larry Polansky
Performer:  Stefan PrinsJeroen StevensJutta TrochToon Callier,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ZwermSic
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



POLANSKY Ensembles of Note. tooaytood 1–3, 5–7, 9, 11. For Jim, Ben, and Lou. Getting Rid of the Glue. ivtoo. The World’s Longest Melody. Ontslaan (toontood). tooviivfor. 34 Chords (Christian Wolff in Hanover and Royalton) Zwerm Gtr Qrt; [sic] Sax Qrt; Stefan Prins (electronics); Jutta Troch (hp); Jeroen Stevens (perc); W. Victor (voice); Toon Callier (gtr, el. gtr); Larry Polansky (el. gtr) NEW WORLD 80700 (70:43)


Larry Polansky (b.1954) is part of a group of brainy composers who are fascinated by the Read more capacity of music to create self-contained/constructed worlds, somewhat visionary in their structure and “alternativeness.” Unlike many of the generation just before him, he (and his friends) stayed away from serialism. But they still did the math, both in using the precise calculations of just intonation (tuning of intervals in the pure forms by which they occur in the overtone series), and in algorithmic composition. The latter, sometimes also called “generative” music, tends to write itself, often in very complex realizations, but based on a comparatively simple set of rules. Computers are often used as assistants for this.


I’ve reviewed Polansky before ( Fanfare 27:1 and 32:6), and I’ve been consistently challenged and stimulated by his music. I think in particular he’s written at least one masterpiece, the electroacoustic Psaltery , which combines the elegance of a simple algorithm with just tuning and pioneering use of computer synthesis (the piece is now technologically ancient—1978–79—but still fresh).


This collection is largely made of pieces for guitars, and tied to performers the composer has collaborated with in Flanders (northern Belgium). Here’s a quick exegesis:


Ensembles of Note (1998) is an additive piece—that is, it grows through addition of instrumental layers atop one another. Each line also grows one note at a time, so it’s both additive melody and additive texture. It’s funny and “honky,” and sounds rather like the Seinfeld theme put through the cubist blender.


The tooaytoods (2000–04) may be my favorite work on the program. These are tiny pieces (the longest, a lullaby, is 17 seconds), fragments of bagatelles. Their “perfect incompleteness” also evidences great wit on the composer’s part.


For Jim, Ben and Lou (1995) is for a trio of electric guitar, harp, and percussion. The three first names refer respectively to Tenney, Johnston, and Harrison, three teacher/mentor/friends of Polansky’s. The first emphasizes a vertical scale built on overtone relations. The second is a haunting song, a dusky, folky Morris Rosenfeld ballad in Yiddish about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The third is the first of two versions of The World’s Longest Melody (also the album title), where the music evolves through melodic cycles that constantly both repeat and change.


Getting Rid of the Glue (1978) is the earliest work on the program, and a very spare, Feldmanesque essay for solo guitar, with subtle vocalisms; ivtoo (2000) returns to the harmonic strategy of the “Tenney” movement of the trio, but over a broader expanse. The large-ensemble version of The World’s Longest Melody (1992–93) isn’t exactly the same notes as the other, but the feel and process is similar. It also feels a bit Zappaesque in its motives and orchestration.


Ontslaan (toontood) (2009) is a guitar quartet based on the hymn Dimission (which in turn sounds very like We Shall Overcome ). As in the Feldman Piece for Four Pianos , it allows its players to get out of phase with one another, though that seems to be the result of Polansky’s precise notation than an improvisatory direction. The overall result is very spacey, with hints and wisps of the original tune periodically appearing; tooviivfor (2002) is another guitar quartet, this one based on harmonic series built on the II, V, and I chords of functional tonality.


And 34 Chords (Christian Wolff in Hanover and Royalton) (1995) is a solo guitar piece written by the composer as a consolation for his friend and colleague Woolf, who himself possessed, and then lost, the sole copy of an electric guitar piece Morton Feldman had written for him.


I enjoy Polansky’s sense of humor and adventure; his willingness to grasp an idea and run with it; the intersection between popular and serious modes, no matter how conceptual the underpinning. And having said that, I’ll also say that some pieces can go on longer than I’d prefer, and that the idea is sometimes better than the realization. In that sense this is very much experimental music, and not all experiments will be successes.


Performances seem to be spot-on, and sound is good. For works that involve alternative tunings, it’s important that no matter how unusual the sound, the result should still sound natural. That’s the case here.


Zwerm is an electric guitar quartet, consisting of Toon Callier, Mathias Koole, Johannes Westendorp, and Kobe Van Cauwenberghe. Callier performs both on electric and acoustic; in Itvoo he alternates between the two, in a multitracked version, and he plays acoustic in Getting Rid of the Glue. The group called [sic] is a saxophone quartet of Bertel Schollaert, soprano; Maarten Jan Huysmans, alto; Eva Vermeiren, tenor; and Thomas van Gelder, baritone (joined by drummer Mattijs Vanderleen).


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
Ensembles of Note, for 2 ensembles & electronics by Larry Polansky
Performer:  Stefan Prins (Electronics)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm,  Sic
Written: 1998 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 7 Minutes 37 Secs. 
2.
tooaytood: 1: [less than or equal to]too by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 20 Secs. 
3.
tooaytood: 2: [less than or equal to]too<- by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4.
tooaytood: 3: 2[/] by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 12 Secs. 
5.
tooaytood: 5: boo k (lullaby for anna) by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 22 Secs. 
6.
tooaytood: 6 by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 12 Secs. 
7.
tooaytood: 7: iiviinii by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 13 Secs. 
8.
tooaytood: 9: loopitood by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 31 Secs. 
9.
tooaytood: 11: onceaii by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 0 Minutes 23 Secs. 
10.
For Jim, Ben and Lou, for guitar, harp & percussion by Larry Polansky
Performer:  Jeroen Stevens (Percussion), Jutta Troch (Harp), Toon Callier (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995 
Venue:  Ghent Music Conservatory 
Length: 16 Minutes 54 Secs. 
11.
Getting Rid of the Glue, for guitar by Larry Polansky
Performer:  Toon Callier (Guitar)
Written: 1978 
Venue:  Ghent Music Conservatory 
Length: 4 Minutes 8 Secs. 
12.
Ivtoo, for guitar by Larry Polansky
Performer:  Toon Callier (Guitar)
Written: 2000 
Venue:  Ghent Music Conservatory 
Length: 11 Minutes 19 Secs. 
13.
The World's Longest Melody (version for ensemble) by Larry Polansky
Performer:  Stefan Prins (Electronics)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm,  Sic
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. 
14.
Ontslaan (toontood), for ensemble by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2009 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 10 Minutes 25 Secs. 
15.
Toovviivfor, for ensemble by Larry Polansky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zwerm
Written: 2002 
Venue:  Studio Champ d'Action, Antwerp 
Length: 7 Minutes 18 Secs. 
16.
34 Chords (Christian Wolff in Hanover and Royalton), for guitar by Larry Polansky
Performer:  Larry Polansky (Guitar)
Written: 1995 
Date of Recording: 01/2010 
Venue:  University of California, San Diego 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 

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