Magic Mirror (2011)
for harp (or piano) and guitar with optional live computer processing

duration: 7'

Score/parts: info@alanthomas-guitar


Programme Note

Magic Mirror was originally written for guitar and harp with live computer processing for my "Elusive Symmetries" project. Like the rest of that project, the piece was inspired by the work of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. Escher had a great love for the music of J.S. Bach, and was particularly taken with Bach's use of canonic procedures, which Escher felt were a musical equivalent of the visual "regular division of the plane" that so fascinated him. Repetition, transposition and inversion were indeed techniques employed by both artists, as well as the concept of the merging figure and ground/melody and accompaniment.

My piece takes off from this starting point, specifically by employing the procedure of "mirror canon" to reflect the mirroring in Escher's print. A very simple but rigorous process is applied in the piece: every note the guitar plays is played in exact inverted canon by the piano about 2/3 of a second later. This means that the piano echoes everything that the guitar plays, but when the guitar melody goes up, the piano goes down by the same interval (and when the guitar goes down, the piano goes up), effectively acting as the mirror image of the guitar.

There are two little mysteries for me about this piece: the first is that an exact chromatic mirror canon by all rights should sound atonal and weird, not like a simple tonal waltz. The other is that it seems impossible, even when one knows the trick of the piece, to actually hear that the piece is only a simple mirror canon.

The piece can be performed by either harp and guitar or piano and guitar, with or without optional live computer processing.