Sunday, April 28, 2024

"Quasiphoric Infinitia" for Clarinet in A, Bass Saxophone and Accordion

"Quasiphoric Infinitia" 

for Clarinet in A, Bass Saxophone and Accordion

Bil Smith Composer


Link to PDF Full Score

"Quasiphoric Infinitia," scored for Clarinet in A, Bass Saxophone, and Accordion, ventures into the realms of hyper-maximalism and the aesthetics of imperfection. I present visual constructs that act as a novel lexicon for the performers. These constructs are deliberately ambiguous and singular, provoking a shift in how performers interact with the score. By requiring the musicians to engage with the score's inherent subjectivity, the piece emphasizes an interpretative process that is exploratory rather than prescriptive.

This approach resonates with the broader philosophical underpinning of the piece, which champions an aesthetics of imperfection. By advocating for an interpretation that "favors questions over answers, contingency over certainty, and openings over closure," the score aligns itself with a view of composition and music as a space for inquiry and dialogue rather than definitive expression.

In the elliptical orbit that "Quasiphoric Infinitia" delineates, the score emerges not as a mere prescriptive text but as a textuality—enigmatic, a cipher for the performers to decode and re-encode in a ceaseless play of différance. This score, in its combinatorial complexity and lexical layering, accomplishes what could only be termed as a preservation of flux—imbuing the performative act with a quality not unlike the lambent apparitions that haunt Derrida's own textual landscapes. Here, the composition does not sit comfortably within the binary oppositions of paradisial escape and mundane reality; rather, it oscillates, vacillates, refusing to be ensnared by either pole, challenging the very notion of a fixed compositional locus.

The visual mélange of the score—this mélange that hints at a surreal compositional landscape—serves not merely as an aesthetic choice but as a strategic deconstruction. It is a form of fictionalized truth, a simulacrum where the authoritative stance of compositional macro-narratives is called into question, interrogated under the spectral light of deconstruction. Here, within the woven fabric of the score, lies a reexamination, a deconstructive critique of the sovereign authority traditionally wielded by the composer, the notational system, the very lexicon of musical discourse.


Fundamental Assumptions and Forgotten Lore” For Piccolo Oboe. Bil Smith Composer


Fundamental Assumptions and Forgotten Lore”  

For Piccolo Oboe

Bil Smith Composer

Link to Full Score PDF

In the composition "Fundamental Assumptions and Forgotten Lore" for Piccolo Oboe, we encounter a score that invites the performer into a complex, hyper-maximalist world with its compound visualizations.

The score's foundation in liminality—its inherent resistance to being confined within the precise, well-defined borders of traditional notation—serves as a critical point of departure for understanding its essence. To fully engage with this piece is to embrace a fluidity and ambiguity that traditional musical analysis often seeks to circumvent. This embracive attitude toward the liminal allows this work to exist in a state of continuous conversation across a myriad of categorical divides, thereby challenging the performer to consider the piece not only as a composition but as a dialogue with the broader world of art and ideas.

The visualizations are not mere adornments but are integral to the piece's structure, offering a cinematic collage that intertwines with the music to create a multisensory experience. The score's engagement with complex concepts such as diasporic Blackness and theorizations of the Global South provides a fulcrum for its wide-ranging explorations, positioning the piece not merely as a musical work but as a scholarly investigation into the intersections of culture, identity, and history.

This approach to composition and notation—where the score becomes a site of interdisciplinary inquiry—reflects a broader trend in contemporary art toward the dissolution of boundaries between artistic mediums. "Fundamental Assumptions and Forgotten Lore," in its refusal to adhere to the conventional limitations of its form, invites us to reconsider the potential of the musical score as a vessel for conveying complex, nuanced ideas. The piece's reliance on visual and conceptual elements to complement and complicate its musical content encourages a mode of engagement that is both intellectual and emotional, demanding of its audience not passive consumption but active participation in the work's multifaceted dialogue.

This is not music as known to ears that crave the comfort of resolution, nor is it art to eyes that seek the solace of clarity. It is, rather, an aesthetics of imperfection, a deliberate pursuit of the unfinished, where the value lies not in the answers provided but in the questions posed, in the improvisation that unravels composition, in the contingency that unravels certainty, in the openings that defy closure.

This composition, in its refusal to adhere to the dictates of form, in its celebration of the unfinished, poses a challenge to the very notion of understanding. It demands a relinquishment of the desire for completion, an acceptance of the perpetual state of incompletion, as the truest expression of the spirit.

"Reality Bends to the Whim" for Viola


"Reality Bends to the Whim" 

for Viola

Bil Smith Composer


Link to Full Score PDF

This piece for Solo Viola presents a complex notational architecture, where each symbol and line transcends its aesthetic form to become a battleground of expression and resistance.

At the very outset, "Reality Bends to the Whim" confronts traditional notions of musical scores as mere repositories of neutral instructions. The piece actively eschews any semblance of formalism, universal language, or the flatness typically associated with conventional scores. Instead, the score's tablature asserts itself through a philosophy of negation and criticality. This is not a passive resistance characterized by indifference or absence, but an active confrontation, marked by a tangible presence and emotional attachment.

The physical presentation of the score further underlines its thematic defiance. In the uneven motific constructions, the notational elements recall the rugged, hand-built walls of ancient civilizations—gridded, girded, gritty, and grouted. Yet, within this seemingly impenetrable structural density, there exists an airiness brought about by deliberate gaps and reveals in the score's construction.

This juxtaposition of solidity and permeability serves as a metaphor for the Violist's ability to oscillate between intense compactness and expansive liberation,

The notational construct is characterized by a duality of being both taut and at times drooping or tangling, where the jagged parts are pieced together in a manner akin to a potchkie—an improvised, often clumsy, yet endearing construction. This textural diversity within the score mirrors the variegated emotional landscape that the composition aims to evoke. The score is scrubbed and stained to various degrees of finish or unfinish, much like an artist's canvas, bearing the marks of its creation process, and in turn, influencing the interpretative journey of the Violist.

The tone of the score carries what might be described as a barometric pressure of moods, shifting across its duration like weather fronts sweeping across a landscape. This meteorological analogy captures the fluid, often unpredictable emotional shifts that the piece demands, engaging the performer in a constant adjustment to the evolving tonal atmosphere.

The hyphenated musical identities hold multiple allegiances. This aspect speaks to a broader, almost cosmological exploration of cultural and musical identities, compressed and expanded within the mosaic of the score. Each note, each marking, each symbol does not merely denote a sound but also encapsulates a universe of historical, cultural, and personal significances that the performer must decode and embody.

“Tesellect Ausarta et al Delicon” for Solo Violin


“Tesellect Ausarta et al Delicon” for Solo Violin

Bil Smith Composer

Published by LNM Editions

“Tesellect Ausarta et al Delicon” for solo violin utilizes a dense multi-modal notation system based on the fluctuations of iconographic shadows and mutable planes to create an immersive performative experience that expands momentary perception into hybrid topological spaces.

Rather than a static representation, the notation traces topographical pathways across both horizontal and vertical surfaces in constant flux. The performer navigates this impermanent terrain of lines and shifting graphic contours through a personalized orientation to the score’s internal logic and codes.

Auditory stimuli echo visual negations, resonating both presence and absence simultaneously from a single bow stroke thanks to the notation’s reductionist yet evocative minimal language.

Amidst the apparent chaos lies a hidden logic. The scores establishes a "reductive simplicity" within the system, a code accessible to those who engage with its intricacies. This accessibility, paired with the score's inherent visual intrigue, invests the piece with a peculiar authority – the authority of rational thought and reason applied to the seemingly irrational realm of shadows.

Processing these clustered graphic traces requires refined perceptual focus within each instantaneous choice point, at once losing and finding one’s place again repetitively. The resulting sound world therefore reflects the continual re-stabilization of perspective amidst registers of enduring change.

In this way, rational thought intersects intuitive flow states to birth an intricate counterpoint grounded by persistent instability. As listener, we enter fugal worlds where each singular tone intimates a multiplicity of concurrent alternate musical realities that flicker at the edges of our awareness.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

"Quadrantaria" for Harp, Cello, English Horn and Tuba. The Score

Quadrantaria (substrate transparency) Score Excerpt

"Quadrantaria" for Harp, Cello, English Horn and Tuba. Bil Smith Composer, 2013. 

World Premiere: Rooftop Terrace, 144 Duane Street, New York, NY. 

August 11, 2013. Underwritten and Commissioned by Interpublic Group and The Emilie Thorne Trust.

Quadrantaria Score Detail

Quadrantaria Score Detail

Quadrantaria Score Detail

Friday, April 26, 2024

"Psymonic Ratios" for Trumpet. Bil Smith Composer

"Psymonic Ratios"

For Trumpet


Score 32" X 12"

Link to Hi-Def PDF

"Psymonic Ratios" for Trumpet emerges as an exploration extending the boundaries of traditional scorecraft into the spectral domain. Lasting a precise three minutes and twenty-four seconds, this piece not only challenges conventional expectations through its temporal specificity but also through its use of spectral notation constructs.

The foundation of "Psymonic Ratios" forges formal unity from the spectral constructs employed within the score. These constructs do not merely serve as a notation system but act as a canvas where formal unity and incongruity coexist and converse.

The performer must navigate the suggestion of perspective—an invitation to perceive depth and dimensionality, which is then subverted by the very structure that proposes it. This contradiction creates a complex spatial dynamic within the performance, where depth can be hinted at but is never fully realized, much like an optical illusion that tantalizes but never satisfies. The result is a piece that oscillates between flatness and three-dimensionality, constantly challenging the trumpet's auditory and spatial perceptions.

The irregularity of interlocking forms within the score further accentuates this effect. Unlike traditional scores, where measures and phrases often predictably interlock, "Psymonic Ratios" presents a scenario where these forms seem to connect yet remain distinctly apart. This lack of regularity not only disrupts the linear progression of the music but also enhances the overall sense of unpredictability and intrigue.

Color integration within the score adds another layer of complexity and expression. The placement of the colored strips atop the score page challenge the trumpeter to interpret sections not as isolated incidents but as parts of a continuum. This approach encourages a performance that is less about executing discrete musical events and more about weaving a coherent tapestry of sound that reflects the complex layering of colors and emotions, akin to how Richter’s strips overlay translucent colors to create depth and texture.

The inherent ambiguity of using colors instead of precise musical notation grants the trumpeter a significant degree of interpretative latitude. This latitude transforms the performer from a mere executor of predefined musical instructions to an active participant in the creative act. The trumpeter must make real-time decisions about how to translate these visual cues into sound, which demands a high degree of musical sensitivity and imagination.

The piece exudes an unashamed sense of artifice, embracing its constructed nature without pretense. This is paired with an unchecked air of exuberance that permeates the performance, a celebration of the possibilities that arise from stepping outside traditional compositional techniques. The score does not attempt to hide its synthetic qualities; rather, it flaunts them.