Clinical Associate Professor
"I ... conduct research on how acoustic instruments interface with and can explore all the possibilities of electronic technology."
"I play it because of its spectacular sound," says Esther Lamneck. She is rhapsodizing about the taragato, a folk instrument similar to the oboe and with thousands of years of history. "It sounds beautiful; like your very soul coming out of a horn."
Lamneck didn't begin her musical career playing such an exotic instrument. She began with the piano - when she was three years old. By the time she was in kindergarten she had picked up the flutophone. But this woodwind instrument didn't entirely satisfy the precocious musician. "I remember feeling that I wanted an instrument that had more notes." When she beheld a clarinet at an instrument exhibit, she fell in love. "I knew I had to play it. And once I was able to, I found that it was as expressive as the human voice."
With such an auspicious start, it is no surprise that the young musician went on to receive a doctorate in musical arts from Julliard. She then toured the world, performing as part of a woodwind quintet and as a soloist with major orchestras.
Her real love, however, was new music performance. So when John Gilbert, then head of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, engaged her in 1988 to come to NYU "it was really wonderful. He wanted me to enrich the existing music performance program by adding studies and ensembles in New Music, and I wanted to work with students who were interested in that."
Lamneck has been doing both since she joined the department. "The program continues to grow in such an exciting way," she effuses. "Composers from all over the world have created hundreds of new works both for the ensemble and for my instruments. It's been a joy."
Lamneck has also been able to make connections between her research and her performing. A Steinhardt School Challenge Fund grant helped her complete a CD of works written for clarinet and electronic music. "This is another reason I came to NYU: to conduct research on how acoustic instruments interface with and can explore all the possibilities of electronic technology." The CD has a variety of musical pieces, including interactive works that Lamneck created by improvisation as the CD was being recorded. "It is a very diverse and interesting compilation," she says.
Lamneck also prepares each year for the Music and Dance Program abroad, which is affiliated with the University of Genoa. As director, Lamneck travels with students to Italy every summer. "One recent summer we explored "gestural controllers," a program which allows us to process both sound and video simply by the gestures we use to play our instruments. The speed of our fingers, how hard we hit our fingers - the program is sensitive to our smallest movement and produces sounds and images that correspond."
Lamneck says cutting edge explorations like these are gratifying because "the commercial outside world is not ready for them. But here, at NYU Steinhardt -- this incredible research venue -- my students and I get a chance to pursue such things freely."
Dr. Lamneck's internationally acclaimed reputation draws doctoral students in music performance to NYU from around the world. "The graduate students are wonderful. They're very eager to explore all the possibilities we have here. And the undergraduates are very, very hardworking and dedicated to building their technique."
Lamneck finds it rewarding to be in the midst of so many eager, devoted students - both graduates and undergraduates - and the excitement that the department generates as a result. "I love working with all of the students because I love their energy."
With so much commitment to performance and experimentation, Lamneck sees her program and the overall department "continuing to soar. The last few years have been thrilling. Every part of the program is growing in such a tremendous way. It seems there's almost an infinite amount of work we can do in the future."