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Larry Polansky - JPop.com
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Larry Polansky

Larry Polansky

Larry Polansky


Born in 1954, Larry Polansky has a master's degree in mathematics and a PhD in music. One of the most talented composers currently working with computers in music, he pioneered the use of computer programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s to compose music and to interact with composers in generating music in real time. Polansky created the FORTH variant HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language) which allows musical structures to be specified, generated and altered in real time. Read more on Last.fm
Born in 1954, Larry Polansky has a master's degree in mathematics and a PhD in music. One of the most talented composers currently working with computers in music, he pioneered the use of computer programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s to compose music and to interact with composers in generating music in real time. Polansky created the FORTH variant HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language) which allows musical structures to be specified, generated and altered in real time. Recently he has rewritten HMSL as JMSL using the Javascript language so that it can be used on a wide variety of computers. Polansky belongs to a group of computer-oriented West Coast composers who have found themselves drawn to extended just intonation. (That is, to music created using small integer ratios beyond 5 or 7.

Larry Polansky has gone up to 17 in his various tunings.) Although Polansky currently works at Dartmouth, his crucial developmental period occurred at Mills College in the San Francisco contemporary music community. Polansky is married to the noted contemporary American gamelan expert Jody Diamond, and Polansky has mixed elements of non-Western music in his compositions for many years. Polansky has been closely associated with world music aficioandos like Lou Harrison (who built the first U.S. gamelan at Mills College, tuned to a just intonation approximation of Javanese tunings) but Larry adds a computer twist to the mix. Many of his compositions consist of algorithmic modifications of previously composed music, or entirely computer-generated pieces.

One of his most beautiful compositions, for just intonation harp, Another You, consists of algorithmic computer-generated variations. He also created and runs the composer's collective Frog Peak, which has been instrumental (all puns intended) in distributing recordings and scores by members of the microtonal and just intonation community, including Kraig Grady, Warren Burt, Kyle Gann, and many others. Larry has also pushed forward the mathematical side of analyzing music with articles which propose using mathematics to decompose some of the elements of music into various curves. For example, melodies can be represented as polynomial curves which can then be transformed to yield similar but new melodies. Likewise, other aspects of music can be represented as various types of manifolds (surfaces in N dimensions) which can be squashed, stretched, and otherwise deformed by different mathematical procedures to transform the music.

Larry has implemented these kinds of transformations algorithmically, and, with the help of Tom Erbe, for timbre in the program SoundHack, which allows one timbre to be morphed into another. Larry Polansky stands out as one of the most talented American composers currently working with computers and music. His best-known composition is the monumental set of piano variations "Lonesome Road." However, the sheer range of his work startles and impresses: he has worked diligently to rescue the music of Ruth Crawford Seeger from obscurity; he founded Frog Peak music collective to promote the music of undeservedly neglected composers; he has forged new mathematical methods of transforming music using manifolds; he has created breakthrough new extended Just Intonation compositions; he has created new music for contemporary gamelan; and he has pioneered algorithmic composition in real time. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..

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