Paul Lansky loves using computers to explore the uneasy boundaries between one genre of sound and another. Several notable, earlier releases on the Bridge, New Albion, and CRI labels uncovered the music inherent in human speech, in kitchen utensils, in cars on a highway, and even in humans in a shopping mall. (At this time of year, anyone who finds music in the latter activity must have the patience of a saint.) Folk Images feels more informal than much of Lansky's earlier work, possibly because the blues and folk genres that inspired it can be rather informal themselves, and possibly because it is less layered and intricate. This informality makes Folk Images, like Alvin Curran's Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden, a good lazy-evening-by-the-fireside CD for the computer age.
There are twelve selections on this disc. Some are settings of authentic folk and blues tunes ("Barbara Allen," "Delia," "Ash Grove"), and some are original works by Lansky. The composer's voice and his "trusty Gibson LG-3 guitar" are the springboard, and modern technology (a NeXT computer, midi data capture, digital modelling, linear predictive coding, etc.) are the pool – or do I mean that the other way around? The results are anything but cold and precise; in fact, Lansky's notes allude to these settings' "awkward and blurry features," which seems an apt description.
In the words of the composer, "there should be something here for folk music lovers, computer music fans and guitar junkies." I agree. Nothing momentous happens in Folk Images, and it if has a rough, even unfinished quality to it – so unexpected in contemporary music for computer – then that only adds to its modest charm. More information about Paul Lansky, his work, and his recordings (including the present one) can be found on the Web in the composer's interesting home-page: http://www.music.princeton.edu/~paul.
Copyright © 1996, Ray Tuttle