Hallways: Eleven Musicians and HMSL

Various Artists

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Hallways: Eleven Musicians and HMSL Review

by François Couture

This collection is meant to exemplify the creative possibilities of the computer language HMSL (or Hierarchical Music Specification Language) first developed in the early '80s by David Rosenboom and Larry Polansky and later perfected by Phil Burk. HMSL allows the composer to program parameters that will make the computer interact with the performer. Polansky's "The World's Longest Melody," a series of short piano studies, gives the album a sense of cohesion. The material found between these enjoyable movements covers a wide range, from Nick Didkovsky's (Doctor Nerve) and David Fuqua's guitar pieces to Carter Scholz' and Robert Marsanyi's pure electronics. John Bischoff provides one of the best moments on the CD; his "Silent Theater" unfolds in a way close to musique concrète. The other highlight is the performance by David Rosenboom (Disklavier piano), Charlie Haden (double bass), and Trichy Sankaran (mrdangam and kanjira), all hooked to HMSL-powered computers. Here the interaction between improvisers and machines is easier to follow. If anything, Hallways: Eleven Musicians and HMSL is proof that this language is not limited to a specific musical sphere; for example, Jeanne Parson's "Hymn Tunes," based on Christian hymns, even shows possible applications for more accessible music.

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