Denis Smalley

Sources/Scènes

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The cover artwork of Denis Smalley's CD Sources/Scènes is in blue monochrome. It describes the composer's acousmatic pieces very well: cold and mysterious. The works collected here span three decades and their running order invites the listener to move backward in time. "Base Metals" (2000) features sounds produced by artist Derek Shiel's sound sculptures, but these are rendered abstract through electronic manipulation. The 1997 "Empty Vessels" was constructed with recordings made from inside large garden pots. The air resonating in them and the environmental sounds happening around them (birds, rain) are kept much intact by the composer. It creates a very original atmosphere. The diptych Tides is based on water sounds. It dates back to 1984, which means its detached dryness could be imputed to the digital technology available at the time. The two dark movements feature many simultaneous layers of sound, but while they succeed in creating suitable atmospheres, they don't captivate the listener the way they should. Strangely, the 1974 "Pentes" feels less outdated. Using instrumental and synthesized sounds, it has a nice organic feel and features the drone of Northumbrian pipes for harmonic modulations. This piece provides the only lighthearted moment on this otherwise somber CD. In the end, Sources/Scènes is a mixed bag of ingenuous and very ordinary works.

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