So Percussion

Paul Lansky: Threads

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Paul Lansky, who teaches composition at Princeton, has been a pioneer in computer music and electronic music, but late in his career he has turned his attention more and more to writing for acoustic instruments, particularly chamber ensembles. Especially in a piece like Threads, it's easy to hear the sensibility of someone who has spent a lifetime working in electronic sounds in the mysterious and sometimes hard-to-identify sonorities of a percussion ensemble. It's a strongly rhythmic piece with most of its ten movements driven by a steady, throbbing pulse. Lansky uses a broad range of percussive sounds, including metals, wood, and membranophones, and found instruments so it's a colorful, variegated score. Threads is structured like a Baroque cantata, opening with a prelude, and closing with a chorale prelude, with recitatives, choruses, and arias in between. Different instrumental groups predominate in different types of movements; sparkling melodic metals are at the fore in the prelude, postlude, and arias, for instance, and the membranophones have a more featured role in the choruses. It's a lovely, quietly appealing piece, the confident and poised work of a composer who's a master of his craft. So Percussion Ensemble plays with great delicacy and nuance. The sound of the Cantaloupe CD is immaculate and wonderfully present.

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