Valley Flow (1992) (for tape)

Denis Smalley

Centre for Electroacoustic Music Studies
Music Department
City University


The formal shaping and sounding content of 'Valley Flow' were influenced by the dramatic vistas of the Bow Valley in the Canadian Rockies. The work is founded on a basic flowing gesture. This motion is stretched to create airy, floating and flying contours or broad panoramic sweeps, and contracted to create stronger physical motions, for example the flinging out of textural materials.

Spatial perspectives are important in an environmentally inspired work. The listener, gazing through the stereo window, can adopt changing vantage- points, at one moment looking out to the distant horizon, at another looking down from a height, at another dwarfed by the bulk of land masses, and at yet another swamped by the magnified details of organic activity.

Landscape qualities are pervasive : water, fire and wood; the gritty, granular fracturing of stoney noise-textures; and the wintery, glacial thinness of sustained lines. The force and volatility of nature are reflected in abrupt changes and turbulent textures.

The mixing of the piece was started during a Creative Residency in the Media Arts Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts situated in the Bow Valley. Sounds previously created at IRCAM were incorporated, and further materials were subsequently developed at Simon Fraser University. The piece was completed in the composer's studio. 'Valley Flow' was commissioned by the Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) with funds provided by West Midlands Arts, and was given its premiere in a live BBC broadcast.