OTTO LASKE'S MUSIC APPEARS ON THE FOLLOWING NEUMA RECORDINGS:
Electro Acoustic Music V Neuma 450-92
Electro Acoustic Music VI Neuma 450-99
Electro Acoustic Music VII Neuma 450-105
Otto Laske was born in Eastern Europe near the border of Poland with formerly German Silesia. In 1945, his mother rescued him from becoming a victim of the Soviet Army. Taking the last train over the Odra River from Wroclaw (German Breslau), she assured that he could live in freedom, rather than having to wait for that privilege until 1989. Having been a refugee early in his life and often finding himself in unknown cultural territory henceforth made it easy for Otto to cross and also disregard cultural and ideological boundaries.
Otto became both an artist (composer, lyric poet, visual artist) and a social scientist (clinical and developmental psychologist). Greatly influential on his work have been his studies with Th. W. Adorno at the Frankfurt School (1956-1966, Dr. phil.) and, since 1970, the availability of digital computers. He came to see the computer as “the artist’s alter ego”, even in scientific work, because of the feedback loop software sets up between the knowledge base it encodes and the user’s living consciousness. His work is broad, multifaceted, partly unknown, and in some sense off the beaten track. The unifying force in his work is a passionate interest in how the human mind works, not only in the arts but in real life.
Laske started out as a poet when he was 13 and, initially excluded from music because judged “unmusical” by his piano teacher, came to music composition after listening to Webern’s work when he was 24. Having started musicology years earlier, he took up composition on his own, following Hindemith’s Unterweisung im Tonsatz. He continued his compositional studies with the German composer Konrad Lechner, Darmstadt (an expert in Machaut and Stravinsky), as well as during the Darmstadt Ferienkurse (since 1963) where he met an international group of composers, connecting especially with Stockhausen.
By this time he had written the bulk of his German poetry and was about to start writing poetry in English (1967-1992). His German poetry is collected in Schlesische Sprachschmiede (Silesian Word Smithy, 1955-1968), his English poetry in Collected Poems (1967-1992) which includes prose poems written with the aid of an algorithmic sentence generator, influenced by Charles Olson (see www.ottolaske.com/poetry.html) in 1989.
A significant moment in his artistic career was reached when he met Gottfried M. Koenig (1963) who introduced him to his two computer programs for algorithmic composition, Project On and Project Two. Returning to Europe from compositional studies in the US (New England Conservatory) and from teaching in Canada (McGill University) in order to study computer music (score synthesis) in 1970, Laske began to link what he had learned about vocal and instrumental to electro-acoustic composition, initially as a member of the teaching staff at the Instituut voor sonologie, Utrecht, the Netherlands, and from the 1980s on as an independent composer. During his time in Utrecht (1970-75), he collaborated with Barry Truax in establishing the Observer program by which he gathered data regarding the musical thinking of children between 7 and 12 years of age. He also collaborated with Koenig in a seminar on algorithmic composition. During the 1980s, he adapted Koenig’s Project One to electronic music composition, initially by manual cut and paste (something nobody ever followed him in).
Laske’s focus on “score synthesis” in the early seventies expanded to a higher appreciation of “sound synthesis” in the 1980s through the influence of CSound and, decisively, through Scarletti & Hebel’s Kyma sound synthesis program when it developed into reading Project One scores. With the exception of the musique-concrète and electroacoustic works created in Utrecht (1970-1975), all of Otto’s loudspeaker music was written by combining scores produced by Koenig’s Project One with CSound or Kyma orchestras. Most of his instrumental and vocal music was equally written based on Project One. This work reached its apogee during the first decade of the 21st century, yielding electroacoustic works exquisitely mastered by his friend Michael Rhoades (www.perceptionfactory.com).
Laske’s early reputation in writing about music was anchored in his intransigent focus on algorithmic composition using Program One which gave the composer a framework for systematic musical thinking while simultaneously giving him a broad range of creative freedom. This algorithmic and “artificial intelligence” focus led to creating a new science initially called psycho-musicology, and later, cognitive musicology, a discipline striving to understand how the compositional mind interacts with computer programs. The overriding conception was that it is by way of a combination of competence, performance (in the sense of Chomsky), and task environment (the tool set created by the composer) that “music” comes into being. This conception is structurally analogous to the distinction Otto made in researching adult development in the 1990s, where he introduced the triad of social-emotional, cognitive, and psychological functioning to explain the human condition.
In the 1980s Laske was also active in making computer music better known, not only through his 20-year long writing on creative composition with computers and on cognitive musicology, but practically in collaboration with Curtis Roads as artistic-co-director of NEWCOMP, the New England Computer Arts Association in Cambridge, MA. (1981-1992). In this capacity, he gave nearly 70 concerts in the US and Europe, and directed an annual NEWCOMP COMPUTER MUSIC COMPETITION judged by 10 internationally known composers.
While Otto was always intrigued by modern dance, for which he wrote several compositions, the visual arts entered his purview only in 2009 when, at 73, he felt the need to see his electro-acoustic music visualized. This desire set him on the path of learning digital animation, a medium making it possible to bring together his music and poetry with images freely chosen by him. Studying his animations frame by frame, Otto came to the conclusion that they could serve as “negatives” based on which to produce paintings, drawings, and digital photography of a new kind. This notion has led him more recently to focus on visual art, thus carrying algorithmic composition into a different artistic medium (www.ottolaske.com/gallery.html). He has shown his visual work since 2012, both locally as a member of the Cape Ann, MA, USA, artist community, and nationally.
As a social scientist, Otto integrated Frankfurt School teachings in dialectical thinking (Adorno) with empirical studies in adult development (Kegan, Basseches), absorbed by him at Harvard Graduate School of Education between 1992 and 1999 (Psy.D). As a result, he created the Constructive Developmental Framework (CDF), an assessment and consulting methodology which he has taught internationally at the Interdevelopmental Institute (IDM) since 2000 over the internet (www.interdevelopmentals.org). Most recently he returned to the topic of dialectic, publishing “Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders: A Primer” at Integral Publishers (2015).