Base Metals

Denis Smalley

Base Metals

  • Denis Smalley
  • Year of composition: 2000
  • Duration: 13:42
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: Sveriges Radio Malmö
  • ISWC: T9247804133

The title refers to the metal sounds that provided the central material for the piece, and it also evokes the creative process of transmuting these raw sources to a higher musical and expressive plane.

All the metal sources derive from sound sculptures created by the artist Derek Shiel from metal objects collected over a period of time. From the wide range of objects I selected those with the internal resonant properties that could provide me with variegated spectral families. Some possessed intervallic and tonal properties, others were inharmonic or noisier, and some sounded more synthetic than truly metallic. Although there are a number of orchestrated impacts and resonances in the piece, I was less interested in the clash of metal than in more sustained morphologies. Thus there is a focus on varied pushes, surges, swirls and sweeps of spectral energy, balanced with calmer drifts, undulations and dips, all of which move in and out of more clearly pulsed moments. These motions are also spatial so there are approaches, emergences, dispersals and distant disappearances, sometimes leaving behind the residues of spectral trails. The metal-based families, which are hardly ever absent, are brought into relations with a few other sound-types, and those who know my other pieces might spot the occasional refugee-sound from the past, recontextualized.


Base Metals was realized in 2000 at the composer’s studio and premiered on October 15, 2000 during the 7th International Acousmatic Festival L’Espace du son (Brussels, Belgium). The piece was commissioned by Sveriges Radio Malmö — the Swedish radio in Malmö (Sweden). Thanks to Derek Shiel for making his sound sculptures available, and to Bosse Bergqvist for initiating the commission.


  • October 15, 2000, L’Espace du son 2000: Concert, Chapelle de Boondael, Brussels (Belgium)