Denis Smalley - Sources/scènes
  Year :   2000
  Location :   England
  Worktype :   CD
  Materials:   -
  Info :   empreintes DIGITALes | IMED 0054 | 2000

  Work Details  
  The idea of a principal sound source as provider of the central material and concept unites three works on this CD, and is embodied in their titles — Tides, Empty Vessels, and Base Metals. In each case a characteristic sound acts as a central reference as well as ‘irrigating’ the piece. But it also inspires and guides the choice of other sounds and the play of relationships among them, thereby influencing musical form. In Empty Vessels it is the sound of air resonating in large garden pots along with recordings of the surrounding environment. In Tides it is two water recordings — a closely recorded water texture which furnishes the ‘pool’ sequences, and a recording of the approaching sea which gives the second movement (Sea Flight) its wave forms. Finally, in Base Metals, the resonances of a family of metal sound sculptures provide the rich reservoir of colorful sound spectra which enable harmonic and timbral evolutions. This idea of sources and their musical development is central to the more abstract preoccupations of the composer’s agenda, as a vehicle for creating families of relationships, and as a means for building musical logic and coherence. But the invisible world of acousmatic imagery also conjures up scenes in the imagination. Such ‘scenes’ can be quite close to reality. This is the case with Empty Vessels where nature, environment, the elements and broad exterior spaces are graphically featured, often without much alteration. However, recording techniques can considerably transform our aural view of the sounds: exaggerated magnification can turn peaceful bees into a threatening swarm, or allow us to perceive the finer timbral changes of raindrops falling on a hollow ceramic pot. Empty Vessels can be regarded a series of episodes which have a visual and experiential logic as a well as making musical sense. This is the closest my music gets to composition based on the soundscape. In Tides the water-based proposition is clear enough, but the more literal references are left behind as the concepts of ‘pool,’ ‘current,’ and wave-shaped morphologies are developed more abstractly. With Pentes the only clear link with the real world is the Northumbrian pipes, and so this piece is only scenic by analogy and metaphor — its spectral energies and motions. With Base Metals, too, the imagery is evoked by spaces and motion, quite remote from reality, although the energetic metallic impacts, which act as reference-points, are a type of sound we are all familiar with. Quite noticeable in all these works is the absence of a human presence in the sonic fabric. With the exception of the pipes in Pentes, a few distant traces of human activity near the start of Empty Vessels, and possibly some reminders of instrumentally instigated timbres in Base Metals, the listener-spectator is left to observe and experience the scenes and spaces, alone. Between and beyond the loudspeakers virtual, metaphorical worlds approach and encroach in sonic flow, and are revealed for imaginative contemplation. Denis Smalley, London (UK), November 2000