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Something I wrote this summer– it's a piece for 16 instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, harp, piano, 2 percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello, bass).  Hope you enjoy!

Here's a recording:

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Hi Lara,

Fascinating and seductive. It felt  more like  myriad fleeting sensations of mood, image and dream rather  than a logical linear discourse on first hearing. Timbre appears to be the dominant motivator and there are some fascinating moments. Although I am not a fan of  microtonal work used as a norm per se, I am a big fan of your ability to create striking texture for seemingly expressionistic intent. Your imagination is unbounded thanks to your technique and for that I salute you.

The score is professional as one would expect from you with every intention clearly marked. I hope the work went down as well as it deserves.

Yes to this piece, and still another Yes!!  The score is a work of art, the performance is an exciting journey with many guideposts along the way, and the entire experience is one I will repeat many times as I share this piece with my more advanced students. 

This reminds me of one of my favorite Norgard works - Luna.  I like Mike's description of "sensations of mood, image and dream" - well said, Mike, and beautifully written, Lara. 

Thanks Mike and Julie!  Glad you both enjoyed it :) 

I agree with Ray.  It's sad that more people aren't commenting on this incredible piece. It does take a certain amount of informed listening (perhaps a lifetime!) to be able to really hear and appreciate a piece like this. Sometimes we're ready for a special piece and sometimes we're not.

It's hard for me to believe, looking back, but I didn't hear the Bartok piano concertos until I was in my early 40's - probably 24 years ago.  I don't know how we missed those in school, but we did.  When I heard the first two piano concertos I simply couldn't find my way through them.  The old landmarks that I knew were gone and my ears hadn't matured enough for that first listening.  Within a few weeks I listened again and an entirely new and magical world opened up for me!  Bartok and I have been kindred spirits ever since.  I used to give Bartok CDs to my sister for Christmas until she finally told me "I don't LIKE Bartok!"   It's hard to imagine how anyone could not like Bartok's 3rd piano concerto - but I have living proof!!

Maybe more folks will listen and HEAR Lara's piece.  I hope so.

Hear hear, Ray and Julie. Especially you Ray as classical modernism is not your glass of dram.

Julie, please don't get me started on what I have not heard yet! I fear I will leave this world in complete ignorance of many masterpieces. 

Lara's work is a beautiful and fascinating piece which I will comment on more when I have time.

I also would like to see more members listening to and commenting on Lara's work and contemporary pieces in general but it was not too long ago that many of the members here would react to new music with hostile and insulting language and I'm sure Gav and Mike H. remember that attitude as well.

I think that having Gav and Julie as active and concerned moderators is preventing that from happening and I am thankful for that.

Hi Lara

I've listened to this piece a few times and I can honestly say that I feel as though I'm listening to a Mondrian painting - I can see that it's a thing of beauty, but what it exactly is escapes me. Maybe that's your intention - to present us with a challenging soundscape and textures and invite us to interpret it in terms of our own experience? I certainly enjoyed listening to it.

Looking at the score, hats off to the players and conductor in realising your vision.

Thanx, Colin

Thanks to all of you who have listened and commented.  Thank you to Julie and Ray for the praise (and I'm flattered, especially since Ray said that contemporary music is not his cup of tea, so to speak!)  

Colin, that's really interesting– I suppose the shifting textures come from the kinds of timbres I was going for, which is sort of a shimmering, sparkly texture, although not "in your face" sparkly with constant saturation of crotales or something of that sort.  The microtonal harmonies also help add to the shifting effect, and that could also be an additional challenge for the listener to deal with.  And yes, I do invite you to interpret it in terms of your own experience– it's a piece that exists for its own sake, I suppose.  

Anyway, thanks to you all for your feedback and I look forward to seeing what more people have to say, whether it be criticism, commentary, praise, or something else!

I often have trouble to relate to this Avantgarde forms of composition, this however is very fascinating. It strikes me as weirdly supernatural and I immediately get the impression of listening to surreal paintings like something Dali would have painted or maybe Escher. Very nice.

What a great piece!  Sort of trippy and dreamy... Going to have to listen to it a couple of times before I comment further, but for now, I'll say that it's very colorful, cohesive and holds my interest!

Hello again Lara -

I just listened to Mirror Rim for about the sixth or seventh time and am totally impressed as usual.  By the way, for those who "don't know how to listen to this kind of music", I listen the way I listen to all music.  What if anything is the tonal center?  How is that established?  How far do we move from this center and by means of what compositional tools?  What is the overall shape of the piece?  Where are the primary and secondary climaxes?  How do we reach those and what helps us feel a sense of arrival?  What are the main themes and where do they appear?  What various textures are used and what orchestral colors?  I would ask these same questions of a Mozart sonata or a Norgard Symphony.  It's interesting how the same compositional devices are used in all great compositions.  When we forget about melody, harmony and rhythm, or keep those kind of in the background of our listening, it's amazing what we can really hear. 

One thing I love about Mirror Rim is the A-ness of it all.  It's never in A major or A minor, but rather in the Universe of A, where everything functions in relationship to that one note.  It's lovely the way you have so many instruments just play an A while everyone else kind of doodles around that.  It's like a glorious orchestra warming up and exploring all the colors and personalities of A.  What's cool is that A becomes so permeated in the listener's consciousness, that no matter what else is going on I can hum an A or hit my tuning fork and it sounds just right.  I love the way you establish this at the beginning and return to it at the end, letting it fade away but never disappear.  The listener still carries that A with her.

I also love the theme that is played at F and many other places in the second half of the piece.  If "A" is the theme of the first half, this theme defines the second half, but it's never straightforward.  It's always fresh and new, but memorable so the audience can say "aha I recognize that!"  This theme has a kind of cascading feeling which is increased in the repetitions that speed up the last part of it.  It's like a silvery waterfall.  There are indeed many guideposts in this very well structured piece.  It's never random, never careless.  Every note has a meaning and leads to the next note.

I look forward to sharing this piece with a couple of my advanced students.  Most of my students wouldn't be able to hear it - yet.  A few more years of Ligeti and Bartok and Norgard ...

What would you suggest, Lara, for very advanced 6 - 18 year olds to listen to, to help them increase their ability to hear?

Thank you Charles and Timo!  I can see how you find it has a "surreal" sound.  

And Julie, enjoyed your analysis– it's always interesting seeing how someone else hears a piece you've written!  It was particularly interesting that you were thinking of it in two halves, which does make sense.  On the other hand, I had thought of it as a big arc with different subsections in a symmetrical-ish organisation.  This is not to say that how you're hearing it is "wrong"– we all hear differently, and that's why I love getting this kind of feedback and seeing how other people see things.  

Glad you also got the A-ness (which I feel is one of the things that keeps the piece together).  Also, glad you think the increased cascading feeling works– that's a result of denser repetitions and just an acceleration.  

As far as students go, just play them a variety of things: perhaps some things that are more familiar to them, and go more into depth on those, but don't be afraid to show them unfamiliar things too.  Getting them to engage directly is important, as is exposing them to unfamiliar things and teaching them not to be afraid of the unfamiliar.  When I was in a similar age group, I was in a composition seminar for several years, and the teacher who ran the group would play us a great variety of things– everything from Schoenberg to Babbitt to Schubert to Nancarrow and many other things.  He'd ask us what our thoughts were and ask us to elaborate.  I think his favourite question (whether this was a piece one of us was writing, or a piece he'd just played us) was "what does this piece do?"

Another thing: if these are composition students, one thing that's always really exciting is getting people to play their pieces to them, as I'm sure you know already!

Thanks again to you all!

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