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Review

Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, September 12, 2021
Monday, September 13, 2021 Press

Denis Smalley is a notable UK electroacoustic composer who I associate with the University of East Anglia (where he taught for a time), but he also studied at Ina-GRM, University of York, and under Olivier Messiaen. Today’s record Vues spectrales mostly focuses on works realised in the last 20 years or so, and Spectral Lands, Ringing Down The Sun and Resounding are all informed by subtle ideas about “spectral spatiality”, resonant sounds, and evocations of the great outdoors. If there’s any linkage between the three, it might be something to do with using natural decay to express the gradual fading-away of the universe, and this entropic theme is manifested in everything from recordings of church bells to the winds sweeping over a beach in New Zealand. All of these are (I assume) largely digital in their realisation, and there’s barely a single recognisable sound on offer, so thorough have been Smalley’s electroacoustic transformations. However, the CD also includes a much earlier work, Vortex, from 1981-1982, which appeared on the Interpenetrations LP from 1984 which I happen to own. Vortex has more substance to savour by way of drama and dynamics, and somehow succeeds in invoking the sense of a physical sculpture, with dimension, weight, and heft. It also conveys the “real and imaginary motion” which the composer was aiming at.

All of these are (I assume) largely digital in their realisation, and there’s barely a single recognisable sound on offer, so thorough have been Smalley’s electroacoustic transformations.