Paul Lansky (b. 18 June 1944, New York City, N.Y.) is an American composer and educator.
Paul Lansky’s early musical studies were at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. He subsequently attended Queens College, where he studied composition with George Perle and Hugo Weisgall and Princeton University, where he worked with Milton Babbitt, Earl Kim and others. Originally intending to pursue a career as a French horn player, he played with the Dorian Wind Quintet in 1966-67 before going on to Princeton University for graduate studies. He has been on the faculty at Princeton since 1969, where he is now William Shubael Conant Professor of Music.
Until the mid-1990s, the bulk of Lansky’s work was in computer music, and he has long been recognized as one of the pioneers in the field. In 2002 he was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from SEAMUS (the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States) and in 2000 he was the subject of a documentary made for European Television’s ARTE network, My Cinema for the Ears, directed by Uli Aumueller. His music is well represented on recording and played and broadcast widely. Numerous dance companies have used his music including the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Eliot Feld Ballet and the New York City Ballet. His piece Notjustmoreidlechatter is included in the Norton Anthology accompanying the widely used music appreciation text, The Enjoyment of Music. He has received awards and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Koussevitsky and Fromm Foundations, Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest, ASCAP and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among others.
During the mid-1990s he began to turn more intensively toward the writing of instrumental music, composing works for performers such as Nancy Zeltsman and David Starobin. His Three Moves for Marimba, written for and recorded by Zeltsman, has been gaining wide recognition as one of the most challenging and rewarding pieces for this instrument.
Lansky’s recent instrumental music eschews attempts to “break new ground,” relying instead on a fresh approach toward tonality and harmony that references musical traditions of various kinds, from Machaut to Stravinsky. His string quartet, Ricercare Plus, is based on concepts of counterpoint and part-writing from early Baroque and Renaissance music; the horn trio, Etudes and Parodies, refers to various music well-known to horn players; his choral pieces, Folk-Tropes, draw heavily on Appalachian folk-music traditions and many works, such as Three Moves for Marimba, draw on jazz and popular music (coincidentally, the English Rock band Radiohead used a sample from Lansky’s first computer piece, mild und leise, as a basis for their 2000 song Idioteque). Having scratched the itch to be innovative for thirty years with his computer music, Lansky is now primarily focused on giving live performers rewarding experiences with his instrumental music.
Works for Winds