The form of both freeHorn and ii-v-i consists of a continuous modulation between three different harmonic series. freeHorn weaves together the live interaction of acoustic instruments and computer software written by Polansky and Phil Burke. ii-v-i, a reverberant cloud of moving intonation, gradually drifts from one natural harmonic series to another. Only open strings, 2nd, 3rd and 4th harmonics, and notes stopped at the 7th and 12th frets are used, and the guitars are audibly retuned from one “section” to another—each section having a new fundamental and a new tuning.
minmaj is Polansky’s unique arrangement/“translation” for two electric guitars of Carl Ruggles’s 1921 work for muted brass, Angels. (It is the first movement of Polansky’s 3 Translations for Electric Guitar.)
Larry Polansky is a prolific composer, theorist, performer, writer, and teacher whose works are performed frequently around the world. CDs devoted exclusively to his music are available on New World Records, Artifact, and Cold Blue, and many of his pieces are anthologized on other labels. In 2010, he wrote the score for Stacey Steers’s Night Hunter, an experimental animation chosen for the Telluride, Sundance, and Rotterdam film festivals and the New York New Films/New Directors festival at Lincoln Center.
As a performer (primarily on guitar and mandolin), Polansky has premiered and recorded works by Christian Wolff, Barbara Monk Feldman, Michael Parsons, James Tenney, Lou Harrison, Lois V Vierk, Ron Nagorcka, Daniel Goode, David Mahler, and many others. A member of several contemporary music ensembles, he served as the curator for the Downtown Ensemble (NYC) for a number of years and as part of Trio (with Kui Dong and Christian Wolff) for over a decade. Recently, he produced a major festival of American Sign Language (ASL) poetry at UC Santa Cruz. (He has written a short opera in ASL and created a series of articles and festivals about poetry and performance in ASL.)
Polansky is the cofounder and codirector of Frog Peak Music (A Composers’ Collective), and from 1980 to 1990 he worked at the Mills Center for Contemporary Music, where he was one of the coauthors (with Phil Burk and David Rosenboom) of the computer music language HMSL, and a contributor to the program SoundHack (by Tom Erbe). His articles are published in such journals as Perspectives of New Music, Journal of Music Theory, Computer Music Journal, Musical Quarterly, Leonardo, and Leonardo Music Journal (of which he was the founding editor). He has edited 20 of Johanna Magdalena Beyer’s scores, as well as scores by Ruth Crawford Seeger and others. In 2004, at the request of Crawford Seeger’s estate, he completed and edited her major monograph, The Music of American Folk Song. Currently he is editing James Tenney’s collected theoretical writings and developing a theoretical, software-based investigation of a unified theory of form.
Polansky is the recipient a number of prizes, commissions, and awards, including Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Mellon New Directions Fellowships. He was the inaugural recipient (with David Behrman) of the American Music Center’s Henry Cowell Award. He teaches at UC Santa Cruz, and is Emeritus Strauss Professor of Music at Dartmouth College.
Amy Beal is a music historian specializing in American music, and a pianist. She has written three books: Carla Bley, Johanna Beyer (both from University of Illinois Press), and New Music, New Allies (University of California Press). She has also written numerous articles published in such periodicals as American Music Review, Journal of the Society for American Music, Notes, Music and Politics, Contemporary Music Review, Musical Quarterly, and Journal of the American Musicological Society. She has also Contributed chapters to the books Crosscurrents: American and European Music in Interaction, 1900–2000; Changing the System: The Music of Christian Wolff; Sound Commitments: Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties; and Modern Art and Music. She teaches at UC Santa Cruz.
Krystyna Bobrowski, an Oakland, CA-based composer, performer, sound artist, and improviser, designs and builds her own instruments using natural materials and everyday objects, often modifying an object’s sound through physical manipulation or the use of electronics. The sounds of rocks and rocking chairs, seaweed and wine glasses, twigs and motors, leaves and water-filled tubes are found in her pieces. Bobrowski is best known for her Gliss Glass, an original instrument consisting of custom glass vessels of various sizes, filled with water and interconnected by tubes and valves. In addition to performing her own work, she has performed and recorded the music of other composers, including David Behrman, Anthony Braxton, John Cage, Alvin Curran, Lou Harrison, Larry Polansky, Wendy Reid, and Christian Wolff. She has performed a number of times with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and often collaborates with musicians in the Bay Area’s improvised music community. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium (San Francisco), Headlands Center for the Arts (Marin, CA) and the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart, Germany).
Tom Dambly is a musician, writer, audio consultant, and producer committed to new and creative music. He has performed as a soloist, improviser, and ensemble musician with such groups as sfSoundGroup, Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players, Mills College Contemporary Ensemble, UCSD’s SONOR, Cal Arts New Century Players, the Berkeley Symphony, and the Aspen Festival Orchestra. He has played in premieres or first recordings of new works by numerous composers, including Mark Applebaum, David Behrman, Bruce Bennett, Luciano Berio, Chris Brown, Chris Burns, John Cage, Alvin Curran, Paul Dresher, Guillermo Galindo, Vinko Globokar, Mark Grey, Hiroyuki Itoh, Makiko Nishikaze, Pauline Oliveros, Larry Polansky, Wendy Reid, Markus Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, and Pamela Z. Dambly collaborated with Thomas Stevens on the pedagogical books James Stamp Warm-ups and Studies for Trumpet and James Stamp Supplemental Studies, and with Gabriele Cassone on The Trumpet Book. He was assistant producer for Brian Lynch’s Simpático, winner of a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.
David Dunn is a composer, performer, theorist, and “acoustic ecologist” who has worked in traditional and experimental music performance, public installations, film and video soundtracks, radio, and bioacoustic research. He rarely presents concerts or installations, preferring to lecture and engage in site-specific interactions and research-oriented activities. Recent projects include the “sonification” of deterministic chaotic systems, research into the bioacoustics of bark beetles and entomogenic climate change, research on ultrasonic audio phenomena in human and nonhuman environments, design of inexpensive wave-guides and transducer systems for environmental sound monitoring, and the design of self-organizing autonomous sound systems for spawning interaction between artificial and natural nonhuman systems. He was an assistant to Harry Partch from 1970 to 1974 and remained active as a performer in the Harry Partch Ensemble for over a decade. He has received a number of awards and grants, including the Alpert Award for Music and the Henry Cowell Award. He has written numerous essays published in a variety of books and periodicals. His music has appeared on the New World, Earth Ear, Pogus, Innova, What Next?, and other labels. He is a cofounder, with James P. Crutchfield and Steina and Woody Vavulka, of Art & Science Laboratory in Santa Fe, NM.
Giacomo Fiore is an Italian-born guitarist and musicologist who has performed throughout the U.S. While studying with David Tanenbaum and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he decided to focus his performing on music by contemporary composers, and his PhD thesis (UC Santa Cruz) focused on the development of just-intonation guitars in 20th-century American music, with a particular emphasis on the works of Lou Harrison, James Tenney, and Larry Polansky. At the San Francisco Conservatory, UC Santa Cruz, University of San Francisco, and Cal State Monterey Bay, Fiore has taught a diverse set of courses, including 20th/21st Century Classical Music, Improvisation, Music Appreciation, the Hollywood Musical, and the Music of the Beatles. He is the Artistic Director of the Bay Area’s Tangents Guitar Series. He has recorded works by Eve Beglarian, Christian Wolff, Anthony Porter, Lou Harrison, Michael Tippet, Toru Takemitsu, and Larry Polansky.
David Kant is a San Francisco–based composer and performer whose work hovers at the intersection of art, music, and computation, exploring “the music of chaotic circuit networks, the soundscapes of bioluminescent phytoplankton, and machine deconstructions of pop songs.” He is a co-organizer of Indexical, a composer-run group dedicated to producing recordings, concerts, and publications of experimental music. Kant holds degrees in mathematics (Yale University) and digital music (Dartmouth College). His current projects include a solo horn piece that explores the possibility of recovering past sounds from field recordings, a project to synthesize the sounds of a universal language from the alphabet of Abrahamic religions, and continuing work with dynamical systems. He has worked with S.E.M. Ensemble and recently finished touring with Dream Team Ensemble, Happy Valley Band, and Gravies and the Main Dish Sauce.
Monica Scott is a cellist who has performed throughout the U.S. and in most European countries, Argentina, Canada, and South Korea. After a 1994 artist residency at the Banff Centre (Canada), Scott performed for four seasons with the Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa (Portugal), with whom she also appeared as concerto soloist. Since moving to the Bay Area in 1998, she has been actively promoting new music, as a member of the composer/improviser collective sfSoundGroup, and with Composers, Inc., the Composers Alliance, and numerous chamber music groups. She was the cellist of the award-winning Del Sol String Quartet, 2001–2005, and in 2006 she formed the cello-piano duo martha & monica, with pianist Hadley McCarroll, a duo that presents programs of both masterworks and challenging contemporary repertoire. Scott has taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department, The Crowden School (Berkeley, CA), and elsewhere. She holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam. She may be heard on the New World, Innova, Rastascan, and Setanta labels.