1. invisible starfall
2. Some Like it Hot
3. Sonata K.25
4. In this Style 10/6
5. Late Music
The initial idea for this set of pieces came from Peter Blake’s cover design for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. Blake’s iconic image juxtaposes sixty-one seemingly unrelated public figures – from Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein, from Lewis Carroll to Bob Dylan.
The five cameos that make up Looking Glass Ties are re-workings of existing pieces displayed in a new light and from a different perspective – pieces through the looking glass.
There are abrupt stylistic changes between movements and the degree to which the borrowed material is transformed varies greatly from piece to piece. Some Like it Hot, originally taken from a short cue from Bernard Herrmann’s score to Truffaut’s film Fahrenheit 451, becomes completely buried by other references. Conversely, Sonata K.25 is simply a transcription of a complete Scarlatti sonata, transformed only by the addition of a few extra notes and the instruction to perform it in the manner of Mikhail Pletnev’s highly Romantic recording from 1995. In this Style 10/6 refers to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland, the music being a highly distorted version of Erik Satie’s setting of René Chalupt’s poem Le Chapelier. Morton Feldman’s viola in my life 3 provides the rhythmic template for invisible starfall and Late Music is constructed from fragments of two pieces written towards the end of composers’ lives – Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony and Beethoven’s string quartet Op. 132.
My concern is not that an audience recognises the various references and quotations, but more with the possibilities uncovered when working with other composers’ material.
© Stephen Goss
Looking Glass Ties was written in 2001 and first published in 2003. It was a significant piece for me, being the first extended solo piece I had written for my own instrument, the guitar. It draws on the pluralist techniques and procedures that I had developed in my composition work in the 1990s, particularly in the orchestral song cycle Dreamchild (1995) and Arcadia for nineteen solo strings (1996). Looking Glass Ties also helped shape the way that I would write for the guitar throughout the 2000s.
Allan Neave commissioned the original version and gave the first performances. He also recorded some of the movements. Both Allan and I had always felt that the original version (which had nine movements) was a little long and that a couple of the movements didn’t work so well on solo guitar in live performance. So Allan often performed groups of movements rather than the entire work. Over the following few years I reworked some of movements and transplanted them into other pieces – The Raw and the Cooked (2004), First Milonga, Last Tango (2002), and Oxen of the Sun (2004).
In 2015, the Portuguese guitarist Rui Mourinho told me that he was planning to record Looking Glass Ties. This gave me the impetus to revise and re-publish the piece. I removed four of the movements and edited and re-ordered the other five, keeping the Scarlatti transcription as the central movement. This revised version is dedicated to Rui Mourinho.