Friday, November 24, 2023

"Ilatom" for Potentiated Voices, Piano and Modulator

"Ilatom" for Potentiated Voices, Piano and Modulator
 Premiered at Merkin Hall in February, 2013. 
Less than two minutes long and one year to create. 
This performance recorded May 21, 2013 at Bowery Performance Space.
On SoundCloud:
"The vocalists occupy the center of the space faced outwards directing the sound into the tubular passageways which have been partitioned off with metal and glass plates creating chambers that are optically and acoustically permeable.
Buried in the strata of "Ilatom" are deposits of grainy textures, nests of overtones and more juxtaposed arrangements than the length of this work would suggest."
- David Keenan for The Independent

"Double Frette" - For Harp. (Precisely 7 minutes 1.05 seconds in duration assuming the practitioner is precise).

"Double Frette" - For Harp.   Precisely 7 minutes 1.05 seconds in duration assuming the practitioner is precise.

There are no pauses in the performance.

There are no facial gestures suggested by the performer.

There is zero tolerance for the performer to exhibit emotion.
The performer should possess a BMI of 31.5 or greater.
This performance may never take place in Canada.

"A Fragrant Balloon From A Pipe" For Oboe

Sunday, November 12, 2023

"Applied Geomancy." A Compactionist Music. Recording on Soundcloud


Compactionist Schematic

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.

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:

Saturday, November 11, 2023

"Helen Was In The Bedroom; I Had Exactly A Minute Left" for Haynes Amadeus Grenadilla Piccolo

"Do Not Trouble Your Appetite About It". For Harpsichord. The Score and Commentary by Martin Amis

"Do Not Trouble Your Appetite About It".  

For Harpsichord.  

Bil Smith Composer

Commissioned by OneBeacon Insurance Group

The Score

A Commentary by Martin Amis, 2022

In "Do Not Trouble Your Appetite About It", the score is an insurrection, a riotous sprawl of notation for the harpsichord that veers off the beaten path into a thicket of complexity. This isn't music you simply perform; it's music you grapple with, music that wraps around your cerebral cortex and gives it a good tickle.

The notational archetype here isn't just off the wall—it's off the charts. Each graphic, each glyph on the page, stands coherent in its own microcosmic right. Yet, stack them, layer them, collage them, and what you get is not so much a composition as a compositional conspiracy. It's an enigma, and to the uninitiated, it's as decipherable as Etruscan.

You see, our virtuoso, our Harpsichordist with a capital H, is compelled to make peace with a musical tapestry that's both meticulously ordered and deliriously deranged. The composition, with its Machiavellian complexity, proffers an illusion of chaos, a sleight of hand that tickles the performer into a complicit dance with its apparently nonsensical logic.

This piece is an affront, a challenge to the performer to don the mantle of a musical detective, searching for clues in a notational landscape that seems as random as a drunkard's walk but is, in fact, as precise as a cat burglar. "Do Not Trouble Your Appetite About It" isn't just a title; it's a warning, a cheeky nod to the futility of trying to impose conventional wisdom on a piece that is anything but conventional.

The notational elements, the machinic and graphic shenanigans of the score, are not the headliners. No, they're the cunning accomplices, the rogue elements that lure you into the labyrinth. But the labyrinth is where the action is. It's in the complex interplay, the sum that's more bombastic, more flamboyant than its parts.

And yet, the performer gets it—on some level that transcends the rational, the frontal lobe. The Harpsichordist understands that the joy of this furball of a piece is not in the untangling but in the tangling itself. The complexity doesn't want to be solved; it wants to be savored, like a good wine or a bad habit.

Don't misunderstand—this isn't randomness. This isn't throwing paint at a wall and calling it art. There's method in the madness, a method dictated by the inherent rules of choice and arrangement. The performer's familiarity with these rules is what keeps them from visual fatigue. It's what sustains the engagement, the same way a seasoned gambler remains at the poker table, reading the tells, playing the bluffs, savoring the game beneath the game.

In the end, "Do Not Trouble Your Appetite About It" is a kind of musical maelstrom, one that sucks you in and spits you out, leaving you a little dazed, perhaps, but with a grin on your face. It's a score that doesn't just sit on the music stand; it leaps off it and takes you on a ride you didn't know you wanted to go on.

And that, my friends, is the mark of something remarkable.

- Martin Amis, 2022

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

New Commission: Page One of the score "Ettore" for Oboe da caccia.


The commission of "Ettore" by Olivetti S.p.A. is a nod to the Oboe da caccia's rich history. As a company, Olivetti has long stood for innovation, design, and the harmonious blend of functionality and aesthetics, principles that are mirrored in the design and sound of the Oboe da caccia itself. The score is a liaison between the past and the present, encapsulating the timeless allure of the Oboe da caccia and projecting it into modern musical dialogue.

The title "Ettore" is a tribute to Ettore Sottsass, a visionary architect and designer, whose work with Olivetti was groundbreaking. Sottsass was known for his vibrant and unconventional approach, qualities that have inspired the score's structure. Each segment within "Ettore" can be imagined as a reflection of Sottsass’s own design phases—ranging from the rigorous to the revolutionary.

Sottsass’s association with Olivetti yielded iconic design work, including the Valentine typewriter, which stood out for its bold red color and was seen as a symbol of Italian design in the 1960s. His ability to marry function with avant-garde aesthetics is akin to the role of the Oboe da caccia in Baroque music—both serve practical roles while exuding an air of the extraordinary.

"Ettore" encapsulates the ethos of Sottsass. The score will be more than a musical composition; it is a homage to a man whose legacy is defined by his ability to transcend the mundane, much like the Oboe da caccia transcends its traditional boundaries through its arresting sonority. Each note penned  carries the weight of history and the freshness of innovation.

Commissioning "Ettore" symbolizes Olivetti's ongoing commitment to celebrating art and innovation. In bringing together the past and the present, the score for Oboe da caccia is not just an ode to Sottsass but also to the enduring spirit of creativity that Olivetti has always championed.

About Sottsass...

Ettore Sottsass, an Italian architect and designer, is perhaps best known as the founder and driving force behind the Memphis Group, which played a pivotal role in the postmodern design movement of the 1980s. The Memphis Group emerged as a dynamic, iconoclastic force in the world of design, known for its vibrant colors, bold patterns, and playful approach to form and structure, which starkly contrasted with the rationalist and functionalist designs that preceded it.

The birth of the Memphis Group can be traced back to 1980 when Sottsass organized a meeting with a group of young architects and designers on the 11th of December. It was during this meeting, reputedly named after the Bob Dylan song "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" playing in the background, that the foundation was laid for what would become a revolutionary design collective.

Sottsass, as the leader of Memphis, encouraged designers to push boundaries and create objects and furniture that were expressive, experimental, and exuberant. He believed in breaking the rules of the ‘good taste’ of the day, and his leadership fostered an environment where the members of the group could produce work that was postmodern in ethos and celebrated for its avant-garde, kitsch, and outrageous aesthetics.

The designs produced by the Memphis Group under Sottsass's guidance were characterized by unconventional materials, asymmetrical shapes, and a collage of patterns. Laminates were a favorite material, often used in bright, contrasting colors and patterns that would be considered clashing by conventional standards. The pieces they created weren't just objects of functional use; they were a statement against the status quo and became symbols of cultural and social commentary.

As a leader, Sottsass imbued the Memphis movement with a spirit of collaboration, openness, and non-hierarchical engagement. He steered the collective with a vision that design should be sensual and stimulating, pushing against the minimalism and utilitarianism that dominated design language in the mid-20th century.

Under his guidance, Memphis became a cultural phenomenon, extending its influence beyond furniture and products to graphics, textiles, and even into aspects of interior design.

The impact of Sottsass and the Memphis Group on the world of design was profound. They inspired a generation of designers to think more broadly about the role of design in society, and to challenge the norms that dictated form, function, and aesthetic value. Sottsass's leadership was not about creating a style; it was about fostering a new approach to design—an approach that celebrated individuality, cultural complexity, and a playful engagement with the object.

Sottsass eventually left Memphis in the late 1980s, but the movement continued for several years thereafter. His work as the founder and dynamic leader of the Memphis Group cemented his legacy as one of the most influential figures in late 20th-century design, a legacy that continues to inform and inspire the field to this day.

The score structure of "Ettore" diverges from traditional stave notation, utilizing a tablature system that is as radical as it is precise. Tablature, often used for stringed instruments to indicate finger placement rather than pitch, is here ingeniously adapted for the Oboe da caccia, a woodwind instrument with a storied past.

This novel approach to notation does more than just prescribe the notes to be played; it delves into the very timbre and articulation specific to the Oboe da caccia. Each symbol, each line of the tablature in "Ettore," is carefully crafted to draw out the instrument's haunting and resonant voice—a voice that harks back to its hunting horn origins.

Understanding the notational intricacies of "Ettore" requires an intimate knowledge of the Oboe da caccia itself. Unlike the standard oboe, the Oboe da caccia possesses a curved tube and a brass bell, characteristics that lend it a unique sound palette. 

"Allumity Candessa" For Cello. Bil Smith Composer

"Allumity Candessa"

For Cello

Bil Smith Composer

A Commission from Glencore plc


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

"Propaganda Fly" for B Flat Trumpet; The Jubal Project and Multimodality in Composition

"Propaganda Fly" for B Flat Trumpet

A Jubal Project Composition

Bil Smith Composer

Score: 32" X 12"

As I have written in the past, "The Jubal Project" is an ambitious endeavor that aims to revolutionize music notation by using the circle as a central symbol. By utilizing the circle as a universal symbol, I hope to create a notation system that can oscillate between indexical registrations, symbols of forces in flux, and sensory stimuli, providing a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities that avoids any orientation towards a culmination point or external end. 

One of the key features of this notational archetype is its ability to yield aftereffects that empower the composer and performer, allowing for multiple transformations and variants of sound creation. 

The philosophy behind the Jubal project is the theme of multimodality.  Multimodality is the coexistence of multiple semiotic modes within a given context. Semiotic modes refer to the different ways in which meaning is created and conveyed, such as language, images, sounds, gestures, and movement.

Multimodality is an everyday reality as we experience the world through multiple senses and modes of communication. The rise of digital technologies has led to an increase in multimodal products, such as hyperfiction, digital books, and music compositions that incorporate various modes of expression. The twenty-first century can be seen as a quintessentially multimodal era, making the implementation of multimodality in composition even more urgent and relevant. Although the practice of multimodality has been long-standing, the field of multimodality composition archetypes is still at an early stage of development.

Tablature Scema - Hirst Castellani


Thursday, November 2, 2023

Logical Composition Has Been Truncated.

Logical composition has been truncated.

It has tried to begin and end in the middle, with the result that it has ended in the air.

Composition presents the curious anachronism of a science which attempts to deal with its subject-matter apart from what it comes from and what comes from it.  The objection that such a chapter on the conditions and genesis of the operations of knowing belongs to composition, only shows how firmly fixed is the discontinuity we are trying to escape.

As we have seen, the original motive for leaving this account of genesis to composition was that the act of knowing was supposed to originate in a purely psychical mind. Such an origin was of course embarrassing to compositional logic, which aimed to be musical. 

The old opposition between origin and validity was due to the kind of origin assumed and the kind of validity necessitated by the origin. One may well be excused for evading the question of how ideas, originated in a purely psychical mind, can, in Kant's phrase, "have objective validity," by throwing out the question of origin altogether.  Whatever difficulties remain for validity after this expulsion could not be greater than those of the task of combining the objective validity of ideas with their subjective origin.

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned.

At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote.

Composers and performers face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions. 

Composition is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of composer’s chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking.

Composers activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if composition was to execute an about-face.  The association of composition with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic composition persisted in universities after composer’s thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years, like composition,  intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a composition which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response.

Composition when taught, inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads composers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which composers have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration.

Consequently, compositional discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics. 

If changing conduct and expanding knowledge ever required a willingness to surrender not merely old solutions but old problems it is now. I do not mean that we can turn abruptly away from all traditional issues. This is impossible; it would be the undoing of the one who attempted it. Irrespective of the professionalizing of composition, the ideas composers discuss are still those in which Western civilization has been bred. They are in the backs of the heads of educated people.

But what serious-minded composers not engaged in the professional business of composition most want to know is what modifications and abandonments of intellectual inheritance are required by the newer ‘Big Data’ analytics movement.

They want to know what this new movement means when translated into general ideas. Unless professional composition can mobilize itself sufficiently to assist in this clarification and redirection of composer's thoughts, it is likely to get more and more sidetracked from the main currents of contemporary life.