Mirror by Malcolm Smith

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Mirror for sine waves (1993) 14'00"

This piece was composed using my old Yamaha CX5M music computer to generate sine tones (by modifying the PipeOrgan2 preset to give very slow attack and release). This sound was then played live on a keyboard such that all notes were mirrored about the note D (next to Middle C). For example, if Middle C was played, then its mirror would be the E above; likewise, the G below Middle C would be mirrored by the A above Middle C, etc. (Many classical composers utilised this idea.) This semi-improvisatory process yielded a sequence of long liquid tones flowing into each other, which was recorded to a four-track tape recorder. Overdubs then added another three takes of the same process, but using tape varispeed to alter the pitch by a few percent, creating subtle chorusing effects. Since the fourteen minutes' duration was long enough to allow the player to forget what had happened during the previous take, there were some pleasant surprises when unheard chords gradually formed without warning.

The result is quite mesmerising, and not unintentionally conjures up some of the surreal atmospheres of Tarkovsky's film Mirror. A pool of shining glass, ever-changing and reflecting its surroundings, swells and blooms and evolves harmonically in radical ways, yet is a unified cloud of sound. Certain moments rise up as pinnacles of emotion, the sense of movement leading ever Elsewhere...

Mirror formed a parallel universe to my other work with sine waves in the Additive Synthesis Project. I plan to make a longer, crystal clear new version of this piece using a more modern computer, free from the primitive blemishes of 8-bit aliasing noise and tape hiss/distortion, although the original version is not so bad and has a naive charm which may prove difficult to match.

[Scores and recordings will eventually be available]

© copyright Malcolm Smith 2005-10-08 - last updated 2005-10-08