"...Its ‘building wave’ structure is tremendously exciting – an increasingly ferocious block chord barrage is separated by bucolic violin passages, each eventually accompanied by evocative watery sounds. Eventually the bucolic theme, rises in intensity, combining block chords – neat and beautifully effective."
-Ron Silberstein,Critic -Review of Testent
"Form and referent coincide, and response rarely goes beyond the initial frisson. In creating a score of this magnitude, it is not the immediate, visceral reaction but the critical reception, the work’s potential to generate independent thinking, that matters. By going back to timeless archetypes, he bypasses the slag heap of historicism and yokes the orchestra to a heavy sense of time, far from the everyday and the customary. It does so, however, without falling prey to the transcendental consolations of the sublime that serve to empower the viewer at the expense of introspection. This music is resolutely opaque... ...Smith is not shy about seeing himself as something of a traditionalist, as his strategic deployment of outmoded forms makes plain—and yet the dynamic quality of his relationship with history is clearest when considered in terms of his unconventional choices in instrumentation."
- Alexander Wong, "The Japan Times"
“The score for “Explorer, Producer Stoic After Your Fashion” is visually unresting – a complex drama unfolding with every page filled with contradictions and extreme gestures of rampant complexity and subrealist indeterminacy.”
- Aldo Clementi
"Bil Smith's new tactile score for one or two percussionists explores motifs inherited from Arte Povera and post-Minimalism. The subtlety of his artistic approach to composition is easily lost beside the goulash of anti-Modernism: the Neue Wilde rampage of Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, or Isa Genzken’s memorably-titled series ‘Fuck the Bauhaus’ (2000). By contrast, Smith's tactical use of anachronism is evident in his previous composition for String Trio, Exvonna (2009) (the title is the artist’s own neologism), an aluminium board ruptured into a pun on Lucio Fontana’s perforated works from the late 1950s. Where Fontana’s affiliations with the void were spiritual, Smith's method seems calculated – the holes here are carefully knocked through and disrupt only a small portion of the surface. It’s a jocose exercise executed with a minimum of effort: if anything, Exvonna resembles a car panel struck by a thin wave of bullets in a drive-by shooting, rather than Fontana’s cosmic, densely honeycombed canvases. Smith's careful selection of materials is key to the disjunctive register of these works. For the Arte Povera group of the late 1960s, the use of incongruous and varied media was an expression of humanist freedom unrestrained by the forces of capitalism – Germano Celante’s 1967 manifesto ‘Arte povera: Appunti per una guerriglia’ (Arte Povera: Notes for a Guerrilla War), began with the words ‘First came man, then the system’. By contrast, another of Smith’s compositions from 2009, which consists of strips of hessian sacking arranged into a rectangle gridded by angular lines of epoxy resin, is as carefully stage-managed as Vivienne Westwood’s punkish haute couture. Recalling Alberto Burri’s burlap-festooned canvasses, Jannis Kounellis’ coal-stuffed sacks or Joseph Beuys’ copious heaps of felt, it lacks the fearsome existential uncertainty of the post-World War II generation. Smith, who has previously employed a variety of organic materials in his scores (including rabbit fur, badger fur and seashells), eschews Beuys’ cathartic, talismanic use of ‘nature’. Here, natural materials epitomize intersubjective values, rather than Beuys’ messianic notion of a remedial ‘outside’ beyond culture. While Smith is clearly attempting a conceptual reorientation of Modernism towards a post-humanist present, this isn’t the full story. The artifice of these gestures might be deflationary, but these works are also deeply committed to the romance of composition. Smith's work moves gently into the past to simultaneously dramatize and re-value music's bloodied domestic tiffs."
-Colin Perry, Music Critic
“A highly inventive collection of artists and composers who are unnervingly redefining form and tablature… creating a new lexicon of music questioning the habitual methods of composition.”
-Olga Bloom, Founder of BargeMusic - Comments on Laboratorie New Music Collective
“As one peruses the score, abstract flat planes threaten to spring into taut and three-dimensional figuration, while figures, assembled from swooping curves and silhouettes, lie as smoothly as snipped paper shapes. The grids create a balanced aloofness, a wry distanced expressed in their explicit reproduction. James Hansen maneuvers deftly through the score creating washes of sound juxtaposed against a minimalist, Wandelweiser-like vapid silence. At his frenetic peaks he appears to be ‘consuming’ the score and his cello…a breathtaking performance.”
-Los Angeles Times on James Hansen’s (solo cello) performance of Acta Combinatorial at Royce Hall
"In Mr. Smith's work you will hear abrupt sonic change; pops, clicks, about faces; shifts...all mapped and planned, but no concern to the observer.
...the heavy, awkward pull of a faraway world full of vanished people, whose lives had rubbed up against time; regret over sounds we didn’t see coming; a melancholic determination to walk through all the rooms. I knew I would try to assimilate the things I’d never heard into some kind of “revised appreciation”; that I would listen at the familiar in search of distracting details, anything that would banish the weight of time and memory."
Ndiol Maka Seck - Le Soleil, -, Dakar, Senegal
"Convincing and Convicted. The location of conventional acoustic instruments within a self arranging digital framework produces moments of creeping insectoid menace that recede to intervals of pastoral reverie. Smith deserves kudos for recognizing both the capacity of technology to create and direct, and the importance of the acoustical human element."
- Brian Marley, Noted Independent Music Critic