Night Traffic

Paul Lansky

  • Year of composition: 1990
  • Duration: 10:14
  • Instrumentation: fixed medium

Night Traffic employs the sound of cars passing back and forth on a four-lane highway, a noise that is now a familiar part of urban and suburban life, and embeds it in a musical texture that adds harmony and creates musical phrases from the random passing of the cars and their Doppler shifts. The implicit violence and aggressiveness of the traffic sounds leads to the construction of a texture that is theatrical and almost operatic.

We’ve all had the experience of tapping our forks and knives on dinnerware, noticing their pleasing sounds and feeling frustrated that we couldn’t turn them into real music.

Night Traffic, Table’s Clear and Idle Chatter Junior all explore ways to transform familiar sounds into musical sounds.

These three pieces have some interesting relations to cinema in the extent to which they encourage the listener to visually imagine the creators of the sound sources and to individually construct a kind of virtual reality that will accommodate this vision. The cars have voices, a super-human percussionist plays the dishes, and the chatterers at a cocktail party are somehow managing to make music, despite their best intentions. In other words the pieces attempt to create their own kind of inner ‘cinematic’ world. These pieces are also influenced by film’s ability to find poetry in mundane things: an urban landscape becomes a painting, disembodied voices evoke song, and so on. Finally, I am very pleased with the way that Uli Aumüller has used this music in his film. Sound and image each manage to maintain their integrity and autonomy, yet work together well.

Paul Lansky