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United States Music

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Author Topic: United States Music  (Read 29609 times)
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« on: August 22, 2012, 04:02:10 pm »

William O Smith, Interplay (1964)

Private recording of live performance-- most likely details are:
Modern Jazz Quartet
Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra
Max Rudolf, Conductor
January, 1967

From the collection of Karl Miller

This work is a bit edgier than the Lewis and Prohaska I've posted, but still has a very elegant blend of jazz and 20th century orchestral elements, where neither sounds superficial to my ears.   Smith also sounds like a very interesting individual.  The fact that he "turned his back" on Julliard mirrors Miles Davis, who was likely attending around the same time.   (Miles said that playing every night with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie was much more of an education than his class work....)

Also note that he crossed paths with Stuart Dempster, who was quite a character-- Dempster's album Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel took brass instruments, a conch, and a didgeridoo into a giant cistern--an empty, two-million-gallon water tank--at Fort Worden, near Port Townsend in Washington State, with a reverb time of over 45 seconds...if you are curious, you can sample track from that album here: .

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Overton Smith (born September 22, 1926), known as Bill Smith, is a U.S. jazz clarinetist, and composer. He has played with Dave Brubeck, among others.

Bill Smith—also known as a "classical" composer under his full name, William O. [Overton] Smith—was born in Sacramento and grew up in Oakland, California, where he began playing clarinet when he was ten. He put together a jazz group to play for dances at 13, and at the age of 15 he joined the Oakland Symphony. He idolized Benny Goodman, but after high school, a brief cross-country tour with a dance band ended his romance for the life of a traveling jazz musician. He gave two weeks' notice when the band reached Washington, D.C., and, encouraged by an older band member to "get the best education you can get," headed to New York.

He began his formal music studies at the Juilliard School of Music, playing in New York jazz clubs like Kelly's Stable at night. Uninspired by the Juilliard faculty, he returned to California upon hearing and admiring the music of Darius Milhaud, who was then teaching at Mills College in Oakland. At Mills, he met pianist Dave Brubeck, with whom he has often played since, in both the famous Dave Brubeck Octet and The Dave Brubeck Quartet, as well as other groups. In 1947, he composed Schizophrenic Scherzo for the Brubeck Octet, one of the earliest works that successfully integrated jazz and classical techniques, a style that later was given the name "third stream" by Gunther Schuller (Mitchell 2001). He studied composition with Roger Sessions at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was graduated with a bachelor's and a master's degree.

Winning the Prix de Paris presented Smith the opportunity for two years of study at the Paris Conservatory, and in 1957, he was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome and spent six years in that city. He has since received numerous other awards, including two Guggenheim grants (Monaghan 1996).
After a teaching stint at the University of Southern California, Smith began a thirty-year career at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle, where he taught music composition and performance, co-leading the forward-thinking Contemporary Group first with Robert Suderburg, and then with trombonist Stuart Dempster, from 1966 to 1997 (Mitchell 2001). Both Smith and Dempster are currently professors emeritus.

Smith has investigated and cataloged a wide range of extended techniques on the clarinet, including the use of two clarinets simultaneously by a single performer, inspired by images of the ancient aulos encountered during a trip to Greece (Monaghan 1996), numerous multiphonics, playing the instrument with a cork in the bell, and the "clar-flute," a technique that involves removing the instrument's mouthpiece and playing it as an end-blown flute. As William O. Smith, he has written several pioneering pieces that feature many of these techniques, including Duo for Flute and Clarinet (1961) and Variants for Solo Clarinet (1963) (Smith [n.d.]), and he compiled the first comprehensive catalogue of fingerings for clarinet multiphonics (Rehfeldt 1994, 99–121). Smith was among the early composers interested in electronic music, and as a performer he continues to experiment with amplified clarinet and electronic delays. He remains active nationally, internationally, and on the local Seattle music scene as well, where in 2008, he composed, recorded, and premiered a "jazzopera" titled Space in the Heart (Anon. 2008).

•   Prix de Paris
•   Phelan Award
•   1958 Rome Prize
•   1960 Guggenheim Fellowship (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 2010)
•   A Fromm Players Fellowship
•   National Academy of Arts and Letters Award
•   BMI Jazz Pioneer Award

I've also found part of a PhD thesis that offers a good description of all the interesting techniques that Smith added to the clarinet...


A Written Document
Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the
Louisiana State University and
Agricultural and Mechanical College
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Musical Arts

William, “Bill,” Overton Smith was born in Sacramento, California on September
22, 1926. According to Peter Monaghan, “Smith’s life in jazz began at age ten. A
traveling salesman came to his family’s door in Oakland and said to his mother, ‘You
can’t pass up this opportunity. If your boy takes 24 lessons I’ll give him a free
clarinet.’”76 Bill did earn the clarinet and by the age of thirteen, he started a dance band.
By sixteen, he was studying theory, and was leading a jazz orchestra. By fifteen he was
performing with the Oakland Symphony. He toured with various bands after high school
before attending Juilliard. Smith continued to play at jazz clubs while in New York, but
eventually returned to Oakland after discovering that the French composer, Darius
Milhaud was teaching composition at Mills College.

Smith studied composition with Milhaud in 1946 at Mills College and then
studied with Roger Sessions at the University of California at Berkeley. He received
both the Bachelor of Arts (1950) and the Master of Arts (1952) degrees from Berkeley.
Smith later attended classes at the Paris Conservatory (1952-53) and at Juilliard (1957-

Smith has received numerous awards and honors, including a Prix de Paris (1951-
3), the Phelan Award, a Prix de Rome (1957), a Fromm Players Fellowship, a National
Academy of Arts and Letters Award (1972), a BMI Jazz Pioneer Award, and two
Guggenheim Fellowships.

Smith has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, the San Francisco
Conservatory, the University of Southern California, and since 1966, the University of
Washington (U.W.). He was lured to Seattle in 1966 to form the new music ensemble,
the Contemporary Group. “The Contemporary Group was founded with a grant from the
Rockefeller Foundation by William Bergsma . . . U.W. music professor and director of
the music school.”77 Smith now co-directs the ensemble with trombonist Stuart
Dempster, and teaches composition courses and jazz ensemble.

While studying at Mills College, Smith met fellow student Dave Brubeck. They
founded the Dave Brubeck Octet in 1947. Smith was responsible for many of the group’s
arrangements. In 1947, Smith wrote his Schizophrenic Scherzo (1947) for the Octet. It
was one of the first successful integrations of modern jazz and classical writing, or “third
stream.” He has played and recorded with Brubeck periodically since the 1951 Octet
recording (Cicero). He recorded one album per year from 1960-66. Later, in 1982, he
took over the solo spot with the Brubeck Quartet and resumed a recording schedule as a
full-time member, performing up to 100 concerts a year.

Smith and the pianist, John Eaton, formed the American Jazz Ensemble, a group
that toured the United States annually, playing for community concerts. It was Eaton
who introduced the Synket, the first portable voltage controlled synthesizer, “a novel
machine for the production and transformation of sounds.”79 It was built in Rome in
1963, on a design by Paul Ketoff. Eaton composed and performed several works for the
instrument, including Concert Piece for Synket and Symphony Orchestra (1967) and
Mass (1969). Eaton wrote, “One real danger of the Synket is that it sometimes writes its
own music so beautifully that a composer is led to wonder if he is really necessary.”80
As a clarinetist and composer, William O. Smith is, “an acclaimed and influential
innovator in ‘new’ or ‘contemporary music.’ He pioneered the use of many untapped
sounds of the clarinet, and incorporated them into his 200 compositions.”81 It was in
Rome, while working on a Guggenheim grant, that Smith began to experiment with and
codify clarinet sounds, now known as “Smith’s multiphonics.” Eric Salzman wrote the
following about Smith’s Variants for Solo Clarinet (1963):

William Smith’s clarinet pieces, played by himself, must be heard to believe –
double, even triple stops; pure whistling harmonics; tremolo growls and burbles;
ghosts of tones, shrill screams of sounds, weird echoes, whispers and clarinet
twitches; the thinnest of thin, pure lines; then veritable avalanches of bubbling,
burbling sound. Completely impossible except that it happened.82

In addition to multiphonics, Smith has led the way with other innovations in
contemporary clarinet performance. For example, he was influenced by several images
he saw in Greece of ancient Greek aulos, or double-pipe, players, and in 1977, he began
writing Five Fragments for Double Clarinet (1978). It is his first piece written for two
clarinets played simultaneously by one musician. Around 1994, Smith began to play the
clarinet as an end-blown flute, calling it the “clarflute.” He has also written for “demiclarinet,”
a version of clarinet where the performer uses only the lower half of the clarinet
with the mouthpiece. Meditations (1990), a demi-clarinet composition, also uses a
plunger mute.

Smith’s compositions are often strongly indicative of his early exposure to jazz
and dance bands. Smith refers to Benny Goodman as the “hero” of his youth.83 Some of
his works showing jazz influence include Five Pieces for Clarinet Alone (1957), which
contains highly rhythmic and syncopated movements juxtaposed with free, lyrical
movements of a more improvised style.

Smith represented the United States at the International Congress of Electronic
Music in Venice with Duo for Clarinet and Tape (1960), the first composition to use
transformed clarinet sounds on tape in combination with a live clarinetist. This sparked
Smith’s interest in electronic music and technology. He has experimented with
computerized, real-time notation and has written pieces, including Five Pages, in which
the performer(s) reads color-coded notes on a musical staff from a computer monitor.

About other visual elements in Smith’s music, Monaghan writes,
(Smith) and his wife, the well-respected visual artist, Virginia Paquette, were (in
Tasmania) to complete residencies at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
of Tasmania. They worked on one of their ongoing series of installation-piece
performances that combine music and visual art.84

Smith has influenced the performance of the clarinet by the implementation and
classification of contemporary techniques. Ian Mitchell wrote,
“It is remarkable how
inventive he has been for almost forty years now.”
85 Mitchell also wrote,

I know of no other person who as exploited the potential of an instrument to such
an extent, and that includes John Cage with his prepared piano sounds, the
extraordinary Francis-Marie Uiti (for whom Smith wrote a duo for clarinet and
cello) and double bass improviser par excellence Barry Guy.

In addition to his many successes as composer, jazz artist, and classical clarinetist,
Smith has also contributed to the field of music with the publication of his book, Jazz
Clarinet. This method book was published by Parkside Publications in 1993, and
contains, “an excellent discography.”

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All download links I have posted are for works, that, to  my knowledge, have never been commercially released in digital form.  Should you find I've been in error, please notify myself or an Administrator.  Please IM me if I've made any errors that require attention, as I may not read replies.

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