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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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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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