snapshot of score of Hall of Mirrors V

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. The tracks are in pairs, with the slow lines interrupted by aggregates on one track, and the repetitive material on the other. There are six such pairs. The twelve tracks are not all playing all the time however — the pairs of tracks 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 may follow at some point. Even so, it’s likely to require a truly top-level virtuosic ensemble to play it with any accuracy.

Score extract (PDF)


Performances / broadcasts / ‘real’ recordings

Listen to MIDI version (8:58)