Tuesday, April 25, 2023

"Periphrasis" A Brief Event For Solo B Flat Trumpet


A Brief Event For Solo B Flat Trumpet

Bil Smith Composer

Published by LNM Editions

(Laboratorie New Music)

A Commission By Origin Energy

Link To Hi-Res PDF Score:

Periphrasis... a circumlocution, a roundabout expression that avoids naming something by its most direct term. Since it is constituted through a culturally perceived relationship to a word or phrase that it is not, periphrasis has no distinctive form of its own but articulates itself variously through other figures

Friday, April 21, 2023

Hyper-Complex Notational Ontologies by Bil Smith


In contemporary music composition, the proliferation of hyper-complex notational ontologies has challenged traditional notions of musical score and performance. Inspired by the works of Brian Ferneyhough, Adorno, and Wilhelm Reich, composers are experimenting with unconventional approaches to notation, often violating the score in ways that parallel the works of visual artists such as Albert Burri, Lucio Fontana, and Enrico Castellani. 

Central to this discussion is the idea that notation is not merely a means of representing musical ideas but can itself be a generative force. Ferneyhough's music is characterized by a hyper-complexity of notation, which often involves a proliferation of symbols, unconventional time signatures, and microtonal inflections. The result is music that is both intricate and visceral, requiring a virtuosic performance technique that often pushes the boundaries of what is possible on an instrument.

Similarly, Adorno's writings on music and aesthetics have emphasized the importance of complexity and dissonance in the creation of new sonic experiences. For Adorno, the dissonance of music reflects the discordance of modern life, and the complexity of music is a response to the overwhelming complexity of contemporary society. Through his work, Adorno sought to challenge traditional notions of harmony and tonality, opening up new avenues for experimentation and creativity.

Wilhelm Reich's theories of Orgone energy have also had an impact on contemporary music composition, particularly in the development of sonorescence, a technique that involves introducing heat to an instrument to create new sounds. Reich's ideas about the connection between energy and the body have led some composers to explore the physicality of sound and the ways in which it can be manipulated.

Adorno's critique of the "culture industry" and its homogenizing effects on art can be seen as a direct challenge to traditional modes of musical expression. Similarly, Reich's concept of "muscular armor" and his interest in the role of the body in musical performance can be seen as a direct challenge to traditional Western notions of virtuosity and performance.

One consequence of the proliferation of hyper-complex notational ontologies is the potential for the violation of the score in ways that parallel the works of visual artists such as Burri, Fontana, and Castellani. Burri's use of combustion in his work, Fontana's piercing of his canvases, and Castellani's patterning of perforations are all examples of artists using physical interventions to create new visual experiences. Similarly, composers are exploring ways in which the score can be violated, opening up new possibilities for sonic experimentation.

One example of this is the use of extreme extended techniques, which often re-invent the timbral characteristics and sonorities of an instrument. These techniques can involve the use of unconventional playing techniques, such as scraping or bowing the instrument in unusual ways, or the introduction of electronic effects and processing. The result is music that is often harsh and dissonant, challenging traditional notions of harmony and tonality.

Another example is the use of sonorescence, which involves the introduction of heat to an instrument to create new sounds. This technique has been used by composers such as Tristan Murail, who has explored the physicality of sound through the use of heat, and Fausto Romitelli, who has used sonorescence to create new sonic textures and colors.

These ontologies, which allow for a violation of the score much in the way that artists like Albert Burri, Lucio Fontana, and Enrico Castellani have used combustion, piercing, and perforation to create unconventional artworks, are redefining the sonic landscape and expanding the possibilities of musical expression. 

My approach to creating unconventional and at times confrontational music scores is also relevant in this context. My works often incorporate unconventional notations and extended techniques, and are known for a confrontational style and a willingness to challenge the traditional boundaries of musical expression. My compositions, like those of Ferneyhough and others who use hyper-complex notational ontologies, are often seen as challenging the dominant modes of musical expression.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

"Mimetized Disasters, Dan Quayle And His Evangelist Wife In A Hotel Room". The Score and Transparencies

"Mimetized Disasters, Dan Quayle And His Evangelist Wife In A Hotel Room". Page One

"Mimetized Disasters, Dan Quayle And His Evangelist Wife In A Hotel Room". 



Piccolo Saxophone
(Eppelsheim - Soprillo)


B Flat Trumpet

The Score and Transparencies

Bil Smith Composer

A Commission from Time Warner

"Mimetized Disasters..." explores a rhythm that abandons counting, that engages with speed and duration as primary rather than secondary occurrences, and that emerges through the interface between movement and resistance and from models of force, viscosity, and friction. 

In this work, I examine some of the limitations of existing rhythmic notation and, using examples from non-geometrical’ notational approaches. I had been struggling for some time with concerns about an increasing prevalence of notational grids, and
in particular the overwhelming dominance of the horizontal and the vertical in the notation of rhythm

Hyper- Appropriation:

The (The) inevitable violation.  A perfect conversion of the objective sum and a precise allusion.

Transparency One

Transparency Two

"Slipstream of Dust"
 For Solo Cello. Commentary from Michael Kwan

"Slipstream of Dust"

For Cello

Bil Smith Composer

Full Score Link to PDF Download

In the post-modern era of music composition, Bil Smith has emerged as a vanguard of avant-garde musical experimentation. His latest composition, "Slipstream of Dust" for cello, challenges the traditional music notation system and offers a new perspective on musical interpretation.

Using an unconventional notation system, Smith's composition aims to convey the ephemeral nature of dust particles, often disregarded as trivial and insignificant. The cello serves as a conduit for this existential message, its melancholic notes weaving a web of intricate melodies that evoke a sense of introspection and contemplation.

The piece's structure is reminiscent of the stream-of-consciousness technique employed in literature, with the cello serving as the protagonist's inner voice, meandering through the different stages of grief, from denial to acceptance. The sparse use of silence in the composition is a nod to the philosophy of absence, emphasizing the importance of what is not said, rather than what is.

"Slipstream of Dust" challenges the binary oppositions of traditional music notation systems, destabilizing the boundaries between the composer, performer, and listener. By rejecting the hegemonic power of traditional notation, Smith's composition allows for a multiplicity of interpretations and a decentralization of power. The performer becomes a co-creator, reconfiguring the composition with each performance, blurring the distinction between author and reader.

The very existence of "Slipstream of Dust" is predicated on the absence of sound. The silence that permeates the piece is not a void, but a space that invites interpretation and imagination. The composition is haunted by the traces of sound that exist between the notes, echoing the specter of what could have been. In this way, Smith's composition embodies the Derridean notion of différance, where meaning is not fixed, but is constantly deferred and postponed.

The unconventional notation destabilizes the notion of a fixed musical language. By utilizing symbols and markings that are unique to this composition, Smith is creating a language that is fluid and constantly evolving. This disrupts the notion of a musical canon, emphasizing the contingency and temporality of all cultural products.

In conclusion, Bil Smith's "Slipstream of Dust" is a subversive musical composition that challenges the binaries and hierarchies that dominate traditional notation systems. By destabilizing the notion of a fixed musical language, Smith creates a space for multiplicity, interpretation, and imagination. The composition is not a static entity, but a dynamic process that is continually evolving, echoing the Derridean notion of différance.

-Michael Kwan for The Guardian

Saturday, April 15, 2023

A Sampling of Performance Guidance in my Compositions for Euphonium and Tuba

Microtonal Sputter - a technique in which the tubist produces staccato bursts of microtonal pitches, creating a fragmented and percussive effect.

Ethereal Glottal Flutter - a technique that involves rapid, delicate flutters of the glottis while playing a note, producing a ghostly and airy timbre.

Subharmonic Rumble: A technique where the tubist uses subharmonics to create a rumbling, deep timbre.

Metaphysical Scoop - a technique that involves sliding from below the pitch, gradually ascending to a note in a way that creates a sense of metaphysical ascent.

Velar Flutter - A technique where the tongue is rapidly vibrated against the velum (soft palate), producing a fluttering sound.

Synergistic Trill - a technique that involves playing a trill while simultaneously altering the timbre and dynamic of the notes, creating a complex and harmonically rich texture.

Naessian spectral subtraction: A technique where the tubist removes certain spectral components of a sound to create a stripped-down, minimalist timbre.

Dysphoric Flutter-Tongue - a technique that involves flutter-tonguing with a dysphoric and melancholic expression, producing a sense of emotional tension.

Polyrhythmic Pulsation - a technique that involves playing notes with a pulsing, polyrhythmic articulation, creating a sense of rhythmic complexity.

Posterior Pharyngeal Trill - A technique where the tongue rapidly vibrates against the posterior pharyngeal wall, producing a trilling effect.

Lateral Flap - A technique where the tongue is used to create a rapid flapping sound against the sides of the mouth.

Heterophonic Strain - a technique that involves playing notes with a strained and slightly discordant articulation, creating a sense of heterophony.

Divergent Staccato - a technique that involves playing staccato notes in a divergent pattern, creating a sense of spatial and textural complexity.

Cryptic Subtone - a technique that involves playing a subtone with a cryptic and mysterious articulation, creating a sense of ambiguity and enigma.

Disjunctive Stutter - a technique that involves stuttering and pausing between notes in a disjunctive and fragmented manner, creating a sense of rhythmic tension.

Unstable Glissando - a technique that involves playing a glissando with an unstable and unpredictable articulation, creating a sense of instability and uncertainty.

Liminal Pizzicato - a technique that involves playing pizzicato notes with a liminal and ghostly articulation, creating a sense of otherworldliness.

Obfuscated Plunger - a technique that involves using a plunger mute with an obfuscated and veiled articulation, creating a sense of obscured and hidden expression.

Existential vibrato: A profound and searching technique that conveys the essence of being through a subtle and nuanced trembling of the sound.

Nihilistic pizzicato: A harsh and abrasive technique that emphasizes the emptiness and futility of each note, producing a stark and biting sound.

Utilitarian marcato: A forceful and efficient technique that emphasizes the functional aspects of each note, creating a bold and precise sound.

Absurdist growl: A bizarre and unconventional technique that involves a deep and guttural sound, expressing a sense of confusion and absurdity.

Empathetic mordent: A delicate and compassionate technique that involves a quick and subtle ornamentation of each note, expressing a sense of understanding and connection.

Dialectical sforzando: A dynamic and forceful technique that involves a sudden and sharp emphasis on each note, conveying a sense of opposition and struggle.

Ecosonic Articulation - This technique draws inspiration from the deep ecology philosophy of Arne Naess, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things. The performer is encouraged to produce sounds that evoke the organic rhythms and patterns of nature, allowing the tuba to become a conduit for environmental expression.

Granular Accentuation - This technique is heavily influenced by the music of Brian Ferneyhough and his use of complex rhythmic structures. The performer is instructed to articulate each note in a granular fashion, with minute differences in pressure and duration creating a highly detailed and textured sonic landscape.

Disjunctive Staccato - This technique emphasizes the stark contrasts between notes, with the performer using a sharp, percussive articulation to create a sense of disjointedness and fragmentation.

Recursive Trill - Inspired by the recursive processes found in nature, this technique involves creating a trill that builds upon itself in a self-similar pattern, creating a complex, evolving texture.

Hyperbolic Notation and Spherical Striation: The Jubal Project