Hall of Mirrors
for chamber orchestra — 2016–20??
Back in the 1990s I generated some raw material from my Fractal Music program for the Atari ST (of fond memory), and left it kicking around in a drawer. It’s finally surfaced and is morphing into Hall of Mirrors, a fairly major five movement work for chamber orchestra, starting with the last movement. I’m grateful to Laurence Glazier, my collaborator on Fractal Music, for the title.
When the aforementioned raw material first emerged, I manipulated it in a number of ways, the details of which are long since forgotten, unfortunately (though I can confidently say that there is not a single ‘mirror form’ in the traditional sense — retrograde, inversion, etc. — anywhere to be found). Fractal Music produces monophonic lines of notes varying in pitch, duration and dynamic level, with varying rests in between phrases. From this, somehow, I derived three basic types of material, all monophonic: simple melodic lines, often quite slow and drawn-out; rapid flurries of notes (which I think of as ‘aggregates’ in a nod to the great Conlon Nancarrow) which interrupt the melodic lines; and regularly repeated phrases or, often, single notes. There are six pairs of tracks, with the slow lines interrupted by aggregates on one track, and the repetitive material on the other. The twelve tracks are not all playing all the time however — they enter in succession, building up in density towards the centre of the piece, then drop out in reverse order towards the end.
That, at least, is how the final 9-minute movement (the second longest) works, the composition of which is now complete, with a MIDI recording presented here. Movement I will use all the same material, but organised differently into a somewhat longer movement (about 12 minutes) — though there is a short passage in the middle, where the tracks of repeated material are temporarily silent, which matches a central chunk of movement V exactly… at least, it does in the raw material, though the end result may well be different. The middle three movements are all much shorter, a minute or two each, and will consist of different elements extracted from the main material: II and IV use different lots of the repeated elements and III is only aggregates. As you can probably tell, this is very much a work in progress!
My Grand Plan for this work is that movement I would begin a concert programme and movement V would end it, with the other three being played contiguously somewhere in the middle, perhaps in between works by other composers. Either of the outer movements could also be regarded as a stand-alone work, as could the middle three as a little suite.
As it stands, this is extremely dense and complex in places and, while completely faithful to the original material, probably unplayable by humans, so a performance version achieved by various compromises will follow at some point. Even so, it’s likely to require a truly top-level virtuosic ensemble to play it with any accuracy.
- flute / piccolo / alto flute
- oboe / cor anglais
- bass clarinet
- bassoon / contrabassoon
- horn in F
- trumpet in B flat or C with straight, cup & harmon mutes
- tenor-bass trombone with straight, cup & harmon mutes
- percussion 1: vibraphone, tubular bells, crotales, triangle, 2 tam-tams, 2 log drums
- percussion 2: marimba, glockenspiel, triangle, 5 temple blocks, 5 cowbells, 2 tom-toms
- violin I
- violin II
- double bass
Performances / broadcasts / ‘real’ recordings
None so far... anyone?
Listen to MIDI version (8:58)
This is the identical recording twice, the choice being offered in case of technical hiccups on either of the ‘mother ships’. Note: these two players will run simultaneously, so unless you fancy a double dose (out of sync) of my ‘spiritual output’, I recommend that you take care to avoid this happening!
This a computer-generated mockup of music entirely or partially for ‘real’ instruments. Clearly it is no substitute for a live performance, but it’s all I’ve got — or perhaps all I can make public for various reasons. There’s a fuller disclaimer on the Listen page.
...with a sneak preview of the score
Or just in case YouTube isn’t co-operating today...
- Sequencer: MOTU Digital Performer (Mac)
- Each part recorded dry to a mono audio track, then positioned for final stereo mix, with very gentle application of MOTU MasterWorks EQ and MOTU MasterWorks Limiter; reverb is combination of MOTU ProVerb and Eventide 2016 Stereo Room.
- Woodwinds: Sample Modeling Flutes, Double Reeds, Clarinets (host: SWAM Engine)
- Brass: Sample Modeling Horn & Tuba v3; The Trumpet v3; The Trombone v3 (host: Native Instruments Kontakt 5)
- Cowbells, Temple blocks, Log drums, 1 triangle: Native Instruments Battery 3
- Other triangle: default orchestral percussion included with Kontakt 5
- Tam-tams: My own Kontakt instrument from donated samples (host: Kontakt 5)
- Tom-toms: Native Instruments Abbey Road 60s Drums (host: Kontakt 5)
- Glockenspiel, Crotales, Marimba: Spitfire Ricotti Mallets (host: Kontakt 5)
- Vibraphone, Tubular Bells, Cimbalom, Harp, Piano: Modartt Pianoteq 5
- Strings: Embertone Intimate Solo Strings (host: Kontakt 5)
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