An American Attitude of Adventure

by Ian Mitchell (Clarinet and Saxophone, 10/96)

"...The essential CD called simply WILLIAM O. SMITH is a collection of pieces written and performed by him. It is remarkable how inventive he has been for almost forty years now. This program embraces compositions written between 1960 to 1990. The oldest is DUO FOR CLARINET AND TAPE, the first composition for clarinet and tape. The most recent is PAN, which exploits a natural forty-five second echo found in a 190 foot cistern found in his home state of Washington. Between these are examples of many of the experiments and discoveries which have interested him over the years. FIVE FRAGMENTS of 1977, inspired by many depictions of the aulos which he saw on a trip to Greece, was the first composition for double clarinet. Mouthpieces are placed on both the upper and lower joints, and the performer plays both parts simultaneously. There is a wealth of new sounds here. Developments of his double clarinet invention are found in MEDITATIONS which explores the use of "demi-clarinet" (lower half only, with mouthpiece) in combination with a plunger mute; and RITUAL which requires a B flat and an A clarinet played together. I urge anyone with an interest in the clarinet to seek out this recording. Marvel at what can be done with the instrument. I know of no other person who has exploited the potential of an instrument to such an extent, and that includes John Cage with his prepared piano sounds, the extraordinary cellist Francis-Marie Uiti (for whom Smith wrote a duo for clarinet and cello) and double bass improviser par excellence Barry Guy. The CD is issued by Edizioni Musicale EDIPAN (Viale Mazzini, 6 - 00196 Roma), number PAN 3023...."