Scott Smallwood

Scott Smallwood: Desert Winds - Six Windblown Sound Pieces and Other Works

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Desert Winds: Six Windblown Sound Pieces and Other Works is Scott Smallwood's first large-scale album, but he is no newcomer and the maturity found in his music can testify to it alone. The first 50 minutes are taken by the six-part title suite. Smallwood explored the deserts surrounding the town of Wendover, UT, in search of interesting sounds. What he found were piles of debris, pipes, abandoned hangars, and discarded furniture. All were turned into instruments by the hand of wind. He assembled his pieces only by overlaying the recordings -- no electronic transformations are involved. The results are breathtaking and invite repeated close listening. The chest and chair squeaking and flapping away in part five, the deep clangs of the hangar that housed the infamous bomber Enola Gay during World War II, and the remnants of James Harbison's sound sculpture "Wall of Clang" all evoke strange worlds for listeners unfamiliar with the region. For the natives it must cast a very different light on their surroundings. The other works presented on the CD fall a couple of steps behind. In "Desert Winds" the hand of the composer is subtle, its presence going largely unnoticed in favor of re-creating the "natural habitat" of the sounds. "Variations on a Door (No Sigh)" (a pun on Pierre Henry's famous piece of musique concrète, of course) and "Trojan Chant" feature much more sound manipulation. "Variations" takes for its sound source the door of a public restroom, treated following the electro-acoustic credo. It is well done, but it cannot compete with the beauty of "Desert Winds" -- plus, its urban subject contrasts heavily with the wide, empty spaces previously featured.

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