Review

Richard di Santo, Incursion Music Review, no. 019, January 21, 2001

Five compositions by the electroacoustics wizard Randall Smith, composed and recorded between 1988-1994. As with Sondes (also on empreintes DIGITALes), a follow-up collection of Smith’s works from 1995-1999, this record is teeming with activity and intensity. It’s title, L’oreille voit, translates as “the ear sees,” and as such these compositions can largely be seen as attempts to visualise sound — to create sound sculptures which present themselves visibly to the senses. True enough, Smith’s palette contains many tangible sounds (or “sound objects” as he calls them) that are quite concrete and seem to manifest themselves physically. The first composition, La volière (the aviary), investigates the theme of flight and the gestures of birds. As Smith explains in the liner notes, “their movements of flight are retraced according to the dictates of a machine universe, which aligns them into orders of understanding, geometries of the visible.” This composition, and the rest that follow it, are remarkable for their wealth of detail. A stunning world of sound and visibility where our senses are sharpened and our experiences of microscopic and “minor” events are intensified. Academic compositions are matched by more reactionary ones: Ruptures, realised in 1991, documents Smith’s angst regarding “worldwide unrest and instability” given a sudden influx of rapid social and political change in the world (i.e., the end of the cold war, etc.). The disc concludes with The Face of the Waters, which is also its earliest composition. Realised in 1988, it takes a close look at the sounds of water in a whole range of situations (a babbling brook, crashing waves, etc.). Arranged in four movements which build gradually in intensity, this piece is remarkable for how it transforms and amplifies these sounds, arranged on an unconventional and multifarious canvas. Randall Smith’s work is an electroacoustic wonder.

Smith’s work is an electroacoustic wonder.

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