Thursday, May 23, 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.


"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.

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.