I have a nodding, amateur’s acquaintance with computer music software—people demonstrate it for me, and I try to raise my eyebrows and mutter, “Hmm, yes” at the appropriate moments. So it’s rare that I hear music and have no earthly idea how it was made. But it happens occasionally, and when it happens with a piece that I find absolutely gorgeous, it drives me nuts. So I finally called up Paul Lansky and asked him to explain to me how he made Conversation Pieces, the most ravishing new compact disc I’ve heard in years. I had to know how he did it.
All of which gives Conversation Pieces, for me, something of an ambient feeling—in fact, it’s the most eloquent ambient disc since Brian Eno’s heyday. But Lansky disagrees with me about the ambient part. He feels that if you let your attention wander while you’re listening, it doesn’t make as much sense. It’s less open to debate that Lansky is about the only classically trained composer besides Robert Ashley who knows how to put out a compact disc as an artistic end-in-itself. Computer music’s most optimistic promises are completely fulfilled here in a disc so richly textured and lovely that I’d recommend it to anyone.