Saturday, August 28, 2021

Performance Notes for "Aftonian Sequenza" (Premiered in Sarajevo, 2018) and "Counterfly



Conductor Fuad Šetić and lovely impro ensemble: Amila Ravkić-Mezzo, Andreja Boltek-Flute, Ilma Cagalj-Clarinet, Zuhra Melić-Horn, Suada Kurić-Violin, Anela Botticini - Cello, Tarik Kamaric-Guitar, Ammar Biser-Guitar, Ismet Skrobo-Guitar, Muharem Osmanagić-Accordion, Emina Huskić-Piano, Hanan - Flute + guests concert: Kenan Kojic - Piano and dino rešidbegović - piano.

Program: Cornelius Cardew, Hoods stock-Ramati, Bil Smith, Dino Rešidbegović, Kaća HadžifejzovićIvan Dujmović

Performance Notes:

Aftonian Sequenza is an obvious nod to Luciano Berio’s solo ‘Sequenza’ pieces which are a large influence in my work in general.  This score is essentially three vignettes in which you can capture the continuity in the visual score, yet with each successive page the score becomes more disruptive.  The frenetic notation in the third page is meant to mimic that of a short wave radio and I would ask the solo instrumentalist to interpret it as such.  The lone boot suggests to the instrumentalist to stop, and stomp their foot on the floor at approximately half way through the work.


In this piece, the link between synthetic sound and philosophical performance should always be self-evident—it’s about getting under the surface, and abstraction... it is about challenging inherited conceptions of what it means to be a musician, what it means to sense, to understand, or to think. This means expanding your perception of the world through new musical concepts, using philosophical performance to break down what’s known and familiar until you realize that underneath those recognizable ordinary surfaces there’s a whole world of intricate abstract mechanisms working away.


Counterfly is inspired by a character in the Thomas Pynchon novel “Against The Day”.  As this novel opens, the ‘Chums of Chance’ (who are a pack of children) are floating aloft in a hot air balloon.  The intention is for the  performers to assume a more minimalist, whimsical…even child-like approach.  In one performance, I encouraged the performers to exchange instruments for a short passage.



I compel the performers to recognize that there’s a really beautiful process where, if you have integrity and pay careful attention to how this music thing is growing, how it presents itself, what it connects to, and if you make only the right compromises (because you’ve got to make some), then it becomes much bigger than either of you as performers.  ,Then the composition and performance becomes something real, has a certain independence from you, and in effect tells you what you can and can’t do with it.










Friday, August 27, 2021

"Referential Cavity". For Baritone Saxophone

"Referential Cavity"

Excerpt

Commissioned by Bank of China

Premiere: January, 2017

Unplayable, Playable Composition: Disruptive Ideation





During a lecture last week, I challenged the notion of creating the unplayable work. This is not new...consider Cage's Freeman Etudes. 


Cage, himself thought the work to be unplayable. I participated in Irvine Arditti's morning sessions at Darmstadt in 2012 at the Orangerie and his performance of the etudes that evening in concert.

When we consider the concept of a work being "unplayable"  we may take it a step further; what if the instrument as we know it today, is not physically capable of execution.

Herein lies the opportunity to define an ideated system of change.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

"Placid Hosts" for Bass Clarinet. Bil Smith Composer. 2015


"Placid Hosts" for Bass Clarinet/Actor/Interrogator.  Bil Smith Composer.  2015

Commissioned by WPP Group, Eli Lilly and Verizon.
Performer TBD by Lottery, August 9, 2015.  (7 Nominees)


This work focuses on unmasking how notational nomenclature is marshaled into the service of power, from political rhetoric and demagogy to psychological persuasion.   

The Bass Clarinetist is responsible for a multiplicity of roles in this performance.

"Placid Hosts" is accompanied by a four-channel video installation based on an interview transcript from a 2014 murder investigation in the United States in which a woman was suspected of killing her husband with a Christian Louboutin stiletto heel DegraSpike Patent Red Sole Pump.

Similar to the way an interrogation room generates a power dynamic and tension from the moment a person steps inside, the layout of the installation is designed to maximize viewers’ discomfort.
Upon entering the piece, listeners hear a harsh and incessant pulsating sound composition, which is synchronized with the interview dialogue projected on two screens in blinding optic white text on vermillion backgrounds. 

One screen features the police officers’ vexatious questions, the other the answers of the suspect. The authorities use interrogation tactics such as psychological manipulation, confrontation, and even empathy in order to gain trust and obtain a confession, hence the Bass Clarinetist is incarcerated, reformed or a fugitive.
Throughout, the accused person’s responses read as overwhelmed, as if they are unable or perhaps unwilling to remember or articulate their thoughts. Delays in replying translate into bursts of cadmium yellow, channel black, or optic white flashes on the screens, accompanied by the no less irritating buzzing of the processed live performance of the bass clarinetist. 
The persuasiveness of this work relies on the listener's exposure to constant noise and flashes of light—which are not coincidentally methods also used for “enhanced interrogation”—leaving one with a strong sense of stress, suggestibility, and vulnerability. 
This is a visceral experience of the exercise of compositional language as a coercive power, as if one’s self were the very same subject of inquisition.

"Exteger" for Benedikt Eppelsheim Alto Sarrusophone in E Flat


"Toppled With A Great Wheeze and Crash". For Baritone Horn.


"Toppled With A Great Wheeze and Crash"

For Baritone Horn

Bil Smith Composer

Commissioned By Bollore SA

2016


Friday, August 20, 2021

New Tablature Created for 2021 Commission for Piccolo, Piano and Cello

 









The Post-Conceptual Composer and Institutional Composition


The work of the post-conceptual composer is a contradiction intended to surprise both the listener and infinity. Ideas are the way a listener will refer to this surprise. The composer will state the idea as ludicrously infinite. 
Successful completions generally have been found to mitigate infinity. I predict we will see one such mitigation via Institutional Composition. This is a newly minted term meant to function as a post-conceptual commentary on infinity as well as the various institutions and assumed normalities of composing and/or a radical disarticulation of the institution of composition (radical is notationally understood in its relation to radix which means to get to the root of something). 




For instance, assumptions about the supposed aesthetic autonomy or neutrality of science fiction and fantasy are often explored as a subject in the field of literature, and are then historically and socially mapped out (i.e., ethnographically and or archaeologically) as discursive formations, then (re)framed within the context of The Infinite Library itself. 


As such, Institutional Composition seeks to make visible the historically and socially constructed boundaries between inside and outside, public and private.  Institutional Composition is often critical of the false separations often made between distinctions of taste and supposedly disinterested aesthetic judgment, and affirms that taste is an institutionally cultivated sensibility that may tend to differ according to the class, ethnic, sexual and gender backgrounds of music's audiences. 




The resulting work is meant to sound good. Sometimes the work suggests the form of the composer. I am grateful for the way a score presents itself as an autobiographical product of its creator and his/her place in the infinite. And yet, I have found this gratefulness tends to go awry in expressionist composition. 

It looks better when the score may more easily become a metric time element, a kind of objective tool that is an intrinsic part of the composer who is out to avoid subjectivity. This type of work is free even to be a belief, something that shows the size of a metric time element as representative of a belief.  The composition is representative of that belief.








Saturday, August 14, 2021

"Applied Geomancy." A Compactionist Music. Bil Smith Composer on Soundcloud

 


Compactionist Music

A Word on "Compaction Music" Last year, I led a roundtable lecture on Laboratorie New Music composer’s reductionist pieces titled the “Compaction Series” . With the compaction musics, each piece is typically under 20 seconds and are appropriations of existing works coupled with the composers original work compressed to varying degrees associated with strict rules and guidelines. (Compaction Music 7.4) Generally the pieces, while titled, also include the precise time in each title (“A Flutter Pressure Drop” 7.90445802″). With Compaction Music there is an invitation to listen with an awareness of the construction, an alertness in the background of the experience. 

Compactionist Composers are an exclusive challenge-society, a think-tank that seeks to generate pseudo-constraints; these constraints spur the private musical ambitions of its members, and subvert the aesthetic traditions of composition. 

Some works of this group are front-loaded, with the constraint or device announced in tandem with the debut of the score—this allows the act of reading to be textured with an editorial or fact-checker’s spectatorship. In some Compactions, the constraint is not made explicit, which allows the act of performing to be infused with a cryptographic undercurrent, a puzzler’s inquiry. 

"Applied Geomancy"

Listen on Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/bil-smith/applied-geomancy