Friday, July 12, 2024

"Something About His Salted Face Or His Strangely Menacing Mildness" For Solo Voice

"Something About His Salted Face Or His Strangely Menacing Mildness" 

For Solo Voice

Bil Smith Composer

Published by LNM Editions

Link to Hi-Res PDF Score

Commentary and Analysis Written by Cormac McCarthy

Within the sphere of contemporary vocal music, "Something About His Salted Face Or His Strangely Menacing Mildness" stands as an epitome of the limitless potential of the human voice as an instrument of artistic articulation. It pushes the boundaries of auditory perception, inciting intellectual contemplation and emotional immersion in equal measure.

Smith's fascination with gutturalisms lies in their primal, visceral quality. They embody the most elemental aspects of human vocalization, reaching deep into the corporeal substratum of sound production. Guttural utterances, produced from the throat and lower vocal tracts, transcend the constraints of conventional phonetics. They are raw, unmediated expressions of the human voice's inherent potential for sheer emotional intensity.

In the vocal interpretation of this score, gutturalisms serve as a portal to the performer's primordial self. They challenge the vocalist to discard linguistic norms and delve into the reservoirs of the subconscious. Through growls, grunts, and primal vocalizations, the vocalist'spure emotional resonance reigns supreme.

Hyper-Neologisms: The Fracturing of Linguistic Constructs

Smith's penchant for hyper-neologisms transgresses linguistic conventions, giving birth to a lexicon that exists solely within the confines of this composition. These linguistic novelties are not meant to convey conventional meaning; instead, they serve as potent vehicles for the embodiment of abstract emotions and conceptual abstractions.

In the vocal interpretation of this score, hyper-neologisms become vessels for the dissolution of linguistic boundaries. Performers grapple with phonemic sequences that defy traditional syntax and structure. They navigate a terrain where words themselves become malleable, and language is stripped to its phonetic essence.

The vocal performer, burdened by the onus of interpretation, navigates this aural labyrinth with a courage and dexterity akin to an acrobat on a precipice. Whispers oscillate to primal screams, traversing the precipitous chasm between vulnerability and unbridled intensity.

This journey is one of transcendence. The performer becomes an alchemist, transmuting sound into emotion, abstraction into embodiment. The vocal cords, palate, and resonating cavities become tools for the creation of sonic tapestries that defy linguistic categorization.

"Something About His Salted Face Or His Strangely Menacing Mildness" stands as an epitome of the limitless potential of the human voice as an instrument of artistic articulation. It pushes the boundaries of auditory perception, inciting intellectual contemplation and emotional immersion in equal measure.


Tuesday, July 9, 2024

"Artifice and Pretense" for Solo Piano


"Artifice and Pretense" 

for Solo Piano

Bil Smith Composer


Link To Large Format PDF Score

"Artifice and Pretense," is a piece crafted with a paratonal notation system. Much like a message from a distant world, encoded in symbols that flirt with the edge of comprehension, the pianist, faced with the diminutive inscriptions of the score, finds themselves at the threshold of an insurmountable task. To engage with each note is to attempt to decipher a language without a key, where each symbol, each gesture, holds the promise of revelation and the threat of further obfuscation. This meticulous scrutiny, while revealing the microcosm of complexity within each notational element, simultaneously obscures the grandeur of the composition as a whole. It is a paradoxical pursuit, emblematic of the human condition: the more one seeks to understand, the more elusive understanding becomes.

Alternatively, for the Pianist to absorb the piece in its entirety from a distance is to grapple with the inverse dilemma. One might capture the essence, the overarching structure, but in doing so, the individual nuances, the intricate details that give the piece its soul, evaporate.  This detachment, a necessary sacrifice for the sake of comprehension, mirrors the alienation of the individual from the intricacies of existence, where the whole can never truly be grasped without losing sight of the parts that constitute it.

The introduction of a new progeny of musical expression, through the banishment of quasi-atmospheric modulations and the embrace of vertical runoffs, represents a rebellion against the constraints of tradition. Yet, this rebellion is not without its own contradictions. The gravitational pull of these runoffs, designed to liberate the gestures of the notation, instead imposes a new form of confinement. The score, with its thick pools of architectural diagrams, suggests an order, a system of coordinates that promises orientation within the chaotic sprawl of the music. But this system serves only to ensnare further, to heighten the sense of disorientation.

The performer, standing alone before the piano, becomes a figure of tragic heroism, engaged in a Sisyphean task where the act of performance is both an assertion of agency and an admission of its futility.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

New Work For Vibraphone Inspired By John Baldessari. (Page 3 of 15)

New Work Inspired By John Baldessari

For Vibraphone

Bil Smith Composer

Published by LNM Editions

Person on Bed (Blue): With Large Shadow (Orange) and Lamp (Green), 2004. Three dimensional archival print with acrylic paint. 213×191 cm. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / London / Paris.  John Baldessari

John Baldessari - National City (W), 1996-2009. Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York (Left) / John Baldessari - National City (4), 1996-2009. Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York (Right). 

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

"Repeject Bound" for Bass Clarinet. Bil Smith Composer


"Repeject Bound"

For Bass Clarinet

Bil Smith Composer

Link to Large Scale PDF Score

26" X 16"

Commentary by Arthur Caswell, Music Critic and Curator

Decoding the Cryptic Multi-Modal Notation of "Repeject Bound"

Composer Bil Smith is no stranger to experimentation, as evidenced in his bass clarinet solo "Repeject Bound." Atypical even by Smith's inventive standards, the score of "Repeject Bound" relies on a multi-modal notational system, weaving together diverse graphical, textual and traditional musical elements into an esoteric tapestry of expressionistic guidance.

A superficial glance reveals a dizzying array of information-dense zones occluding any sense of orientation. Yet patient examination unlocks interwoven streams of directives working in concert to encapsulate Smith's artistic intents. The expressive markings, while oblique at first, cohere into an unorthodox but innately logical language.

Most strikingly, Smith augments the standard musical staves with horizontal graphical timelines demarcating controlled improvisatory spaces. These zones are linked to text instructions and mnemonic visual symbols designating extended techniques - key clicks, tongue pops, pitch bends and microtones. Italian terms connect this expansion of vocabulary back to conventional notation vernacular.

By integrating old and new, the multi-modal score speaks simultaneously to tradition and innovation. It grants trained musicians a foothold while exposing avenues for reinvention. This clever interplay forms the crux of Smith’s boundary-pushing aesthetic.

Simultaneously, the visual hierarchy provides deeper structure through right-justified duration markers. These strata map the piece into proportionally-notated phases aligned to golden ratio dimensions. Nested numeric sequences offer self-similarity at varying magnitudes, enabling nested meta-improvisation.

Far from random, the terrifying initial complexity of "Repeject Bound" disentangles into an intricately engineered ecosystem, at once chaotic yet ordered. As Smith himself stated, "It only seems unruly until you detect the underlying patterns." Through mature interrogation and patience, the performer can traverse Smith’s left-field innovation to unlock mysteriously satisfying coherence.


"Idelytic" for Viola. Link to Hi-Res PDF Score


For Viola

Bil Smith Composer

26" X 14"

Link to Hi-Res PDF Score

"The Unfolding Mandala" for Basset Clarinet


"The Unfolding Mandala" 

for Basset Clarinet

Bil Smith Composer

Score 30" X 30"

Link To PDF Hi-Res Score

"The Unfolding Mandala" is a  composition crafted specifically for the Basset Clarinet challenges the complacent, narrow attitude often associated with the indeterminacy of translation thesis. 

This work defies the notion of non-existent definite meaning and truth in the deconstruction of the traditional music notation system. By embracing a rich and expansive musical language, this composition represents a departure from reductive externalism and invites us to experience the beauty of musical expression.

The indeterminacy of translation thesis, which questions the existence of definite meaning and truth, has often been associated with a complacent, arrogant, and narrow attitude towards musical expression.  However, "The Unfolding Mandala" challenges this perspective by showcasing the potential for profound meaning and emotional resonance within the context of the notational system. While the traditional music notation system may undergo deconstruction, it does not render meaning and truth obsolete. Instead, this composition embraces a broader, more expansive musical language that transcends linguistic constraints, inviting listeners to engage with the deeper layers of musical expression.

"The Unfolding Mandala" breaks free from reductive externalism by expanding the boundaries of musical language. The Basset Clarinet, with its extended range and rich timbral palette, serves as the vessel for this exploration.  By harnessing the full expressive potential of the Basset Clarinet, "The Unfolding Mandala" pushes the boundaries of what is traditionally deemed possible, inviting listeners to embark on a sonic journey that defies limitations.
As we view the score, meaning and truth emerge through the interplay of musical elements, the performer's interpretation, and the listener's experience. Rather than being limited to fixed interpretations, the composition allows for a multiplicity of meanings to emerge.

About The Basset Clarinet:

The Basset Clarinet is a variant of the clarinet family with a lower range and additional keys to extend its compass. It is characterized by its distinctive long body and a longer bore length than the standard clarinet. The instrument is named after its creator, Johann Christoph Denner, a German instrument maker from the 18th century. The Basset Clarinet gained prominence during the Classical era, particularly in the works of renowned composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Carl Maria von Weber.

Historical Background:

The Basset Clarinet was developed in the late 18th century as an enhancement to the standard clarinet. Johann Christoph Denner, who was already renowned for his improvements to the chalumeau, a predecessor of the clarinet, is credited with the invention of the Basset Clarinet. Denner sought to expand the instrument's range by extending its lower register, and thus the Basset Clarinet was born.

One of the most significant composers to embrace the Basset Clarinet was Mozart. In 1789, Mozart composed his famous Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622, which prominently features the instrument. This concerto showcases the unique capabilities of the Basset Clarinet, allowing for expressive passages in the lower register that were previously unattainable on the standard clarinet.

Following Mozart's pioneering use of the Basset Clarinet, other composers, such as Carl Maria von Weber, also began incorporating the instrument into their compositions. Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 74, written in 1811, further showcased the expressive and virtuosic qualities of the Basset Clarinet.

However, despite its popularity during the Classical and early Romantic periods, the Basset Clarinet gradually fell out of favor as the clarinet evolved and underwent improvements in the 19th century. The instrument's extended range was eventually incorporated into the standard clarinet design, rendering the Basset Clarinet less necessary.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in historical performance practices, leading to a revival of the Basset Clarinet. Contemporary clarinetists and composers have sought to explore the unique timbral and expressive possibilities of this instrument, particularly in the performance of Classical and early Romantic repertoire. 

The Basset Clarinet remains an important instrument in the clarinet family, offering a specialized range and expressive capabilities that set it apart from its standard counterparts. Its historical legacy, association with renowned composers, and unique tonal qualities continue to contribute to the rich tapestry of clarinet music.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

"Esperplode" for Alto Flute


For Alto Flute

Bil Smith Composer

26" X 16"

In the score of "Esperplode" for Alto Flute, we encounter a radical deconstruction of the traditional notational system. This piece, through its intricate network of spheres and circles fashioned from 3D models and proprietary colorization techniques, destabilizes the very foundations of how music is conceptualized, performed, and experienced.

The use of 3D structural modeling in the notation of "Esperplode" represents a profound shift from the linear, two-dimensional plane of traditional scores to a multi-dimensional, spatial-temporal representation of sound. These geometric forms, these spheres and circles, do not merely symbolize musical elements in a conventional sense. They embody a multiplicity of potentialities, each one a différance, a deferred presence that both signifies and disrupts the expected continuity of musical narrative. They demand an interpretive act that is as much about what is not there, the absences and silences, as it is about the audible notes.

Colorization, applied through proprietary techniques, further complicates this interplay. The colors are not mere aesthetic embellishments; they are integral signifiers within the notational system. Each hue, each shade, is a trace, a mark of difference that resonates with the music’s thematic and emotional undercurrents. These colors enact a play of presence and absence, guiding the performer through a landscape of meaning that is as much visual as it is auditory. The colors themselves become a text, a script that must be read and interpreted in conjunction with the sound.

In this way, "Esperplode" absorbs our gaze and extends it beyond the immediate visual field, compelling us to engage with the horizon of our experience. The score is not a static entity but a dynamic process, a site of continuous becoming. It is a pharmakon, both remedy and poison, healing the fragmentation of traditional notation while simultaneously introducing a complexity that can never be fully resolved. The spheres and circles, with their inherent curvature and fluidity, resist the linearity of traditional notation, embodying instead a non-linear, rhizomatic structure that echoes Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of a map that is always in motion.

In "Esperplode," the score becomes a site of jouissance, a space where the limits of language and notation are tested and transgressed. It embodies a Lacanian real that eludes full comprehension, a kernel of the impossible that lies at the heart of artistic creation. The performer, in engaging with this score, must navigate a terrain where meaning is always in flux, where the act of interpretation is a perpetual negotiation with the unknown.


Saturday, June 29, 2024

"Orgone Dossier" for Soprano Voice

"Orgone Dossier" for Soprano Voice

Bil Smith Composer


In the score of "Orgone Dossier" for Soprano Voice, I confront the unconscious textuality of musical notation, a discourse that resists the simplistic transparency of language and transcends its conventional bounds. The composition, steeped in the neologistic structuralism akin to a global pharmacopeia, challenges standard interpretations and demands a reconsideration of the signifier and signified within musical contexts.

"Orgone Dossier" thus becomes a site where the real intrudes upon the symbolic; the score does not serve as a mere repository of musical instructions but as a field of jouissance, where enjoyment is intertwined with a certain terror of what lies beyond the decipherable. The soprano’s voice, tasked with navigating this landscape, encounters a lexicon that oscillates between meaning and absurdity, demanding a surrender to the unknown aspects of the text.

The structuralist approach, often rigid in its linguistic determinations, is subverted here through the introduction of terms from the pharmacopeial vocabulary that resist conventional semantic assignments. These terms, embedded within the score, act as points de capiton—anchoring points—yet they simultaneously dislocate meaning. The score thus serves as a mirror reflecting the fragmented self back to the performer, inviting a confrontation with the internal otherness that is the unconscious.

Through "Orgone Dossier," we are invited to witness the unfolding of the voice as it engages with a text that is always incomplete, always producing new meaning through its gaps and voids. This engagement is not merely an act of performance but an act of interpretation that reveals the subject’s desire—the desire to make the unintelligible intelligible, to find harmony in dissonance, and ultimately, to confront the core of one’s artistic being.

In this light, the score of "Orgone Dossier" represents a liminal space where the known and the unknown meet, where the voice seeks to articulate what is fundamentally inarticulable. It stands as a testament to the Lacanian assertion that the most profound truths lie where words fail, and it is here, in this failure, that true artistry begins.