Review of freeHorn by Larry Polansky, Cold Blue Music, 2017
A few years ago (2010), listening to Michael Vick’s VVEAD FootHils Jam album, I picked up his fancy about the lack of interest from composers about fretless guitar. A thing quite understandable but also legitimate. If Berlioz’s famous quote, which said that for composing guitar music you needed to be guitarist, had arrested several composers in investing their time and talent on our favorite instrument … we can imagine what could be, in general, the reaction about the electric guitar, the principal instrument for pop and rock music, and always in general, seen with considerable suspicion by those who had an academic degree.
But those days seem so far away and so today we can hear this great record, “freeHorn”, not only mostly dedicated to guitar music, but also with the presence of fretless guitar.
The cd is divided into three tracks: the first, “freeHorn” performed by an ensemble of eight elements including two guitars. The components are: Cello – Monica Scott, Electric Guitar – Giacomo Fiore, Electric Guitar [fretless electric guitar] – Larry Polansky, Horn – Krystyna Bobrowski, Piano – Amy C. Beal, Tenor Saxophone, Computer – David Kant, Trumpet – Tom Dambly and Violin [electric violin] – David Dunn. A fairly nourished version for a version that contrasts to that for solo guitar recorded by Giacomo Fiore in his LP of 2014 “IV: American Electric Guitars”. “FreeHorn” (2004) has been composed of every instrument and electronics and, as we will find in the other two songs that make up the CD, testifies one of the characteristic traits of Polansky’s musical style: his interest in the modulation of musical harmonic series, in this composition musicians repeat well-defined harmonic series and their interweaving creates complex music, a dreamlike dream often characterized by an immersive nature.
The other two tracks “ii-vi” and “minmaj” are for guitar duo and see the presence of Giacomo Fiore on the electric guitar and Polansky himself at the fretless guitar, the first continues the sense of Polansky’s discovery to the harmonic series , the second is instead is a transcription for guitars of Angels composed by Carl Ruggles in 1921.
But perhaps it is better to clarify further by quoting directly the notes accompanying the cd: “ii-vi, a reverberating cloud of moving intonation, gradually derives from a harmonic series to the other. ° and 4 ° and the notes blocked on the 7th and 12th frets are used and the guitars are reproduced audibly from one “section” to the other – each section has a new basic functionality and a new tuning: minmaj is the ‘ the only arrangement / “translation” by Polansky for two electric guitars of Carl Ruggles work of 1921 for silenced brass, Angels. (It is the first movement of the 3 translations of Polansky for the electric guitar.) “
The balance of this cd is undoubtedly positive: I think I have found in Polansky some aspects that characterize the contemporary art of recent years: total attention to the weaving of sounds, a love for chamber music, recalling some aspects of the Renaissance music (obviously rewritten in post-modern style), a vision of music as an immersive and almost tactile aspect. Polansky’s music also does not seem to emphasize that constant search for the complexity and complication that often depart from listening to the extreme aspects of avant-garde music. Polansky’s music is enjoyable, intense and can be joned by anyone who wants to simply receive music from something more than just a moment of distraction and evasion. Hightly recommended for those who love playing the fretless guitar.