Canadian electroacoustics composer Randall Smith presents six pieces composed from 1995 through 1999. Each of these pieces is teeming with sounds and intensity; thousands of minute sounds flutter through these compositions in complex movements, revealing an intricate soundworld unlike anything I have hard before.
InsideOut is for me the most intriguing of these works. Using only sounds derived from four instruments of an orchestra (alto flute, violin, E-flat clarinet and double bass), the piece carries a certain urgency and unease about it, and a crisp resonance that is remarkable. In the liner notes, the piece is effectively described as being “a digression through small worlds, islands of experience, each demarking a facet of the whole.”
Other pieces incorporate the sound sources of live instrumentation: Liquid Fragments 1 uses double bass and alto flute; Continental Rift is a composition for cello and tape; and Convergence is for accordion and tape. There’s also a geological theme that runs through some of these recordings. Elastic Rebound attempts to explore — in electroacoustic terms — the geographical activity of the earth. The title is a reference to a phenomena relating to the tectonic behaviour of an earthquake. Continental Rift, says Smith, is a “metaphorical composition” describing the evolution of continental structures. This is perhaps the piece with the least sense of urgency, considering its theme is evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary; the cello intones in a way that suggests loss or a looking back to things that were. My least favourite of the compositions is Convergence: a chaotic piece for accordion and tapes, characterised by quickly shifting movements where the accordion rides erratically in a strange “carnivalesque” manner. The CD comes packaged with lengthy elucidations by the composer on each of the pieces, describing their compositional histories. Also for each piece, the contexts, themes and impressions are discussed with great interest by Mike Hoolboom.
Randall Smith is certainly an inventive and innovative artist, experimenting with new electroacoustic techniques and creating surprising results. Each of the compositions on Sondes carries a very unique sound full of complexity and urgency, a hectic soundworld full of transitions and sharp movements.