Etha Williams – Saariaho's "Mirrors"

Saariaho's Mirrors consists of a series of fragmentary melodies in both the cello and the flute parts; in keeping with the work's title, these fragments at all times mirror one another in various musical domains – pitch, rhythm, timbre, and gesture –, giving the overall work a sense of constant reflexivity. Moreover, even as the flautist participates in the creation of these musical mirrors – present both within her material and in her interactions with the cellist –, she simultaneously comments on them verbally: throughout the piece the flautist intermittently recites a text drawn from the Roman da la Dame à la lycorne et du biau chevalier au lion, a 14th-century poem that inspired the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestry (text below, image at right):

Miroir clair - Clear mirror –
brillant sans souillure - brilliant, unblemished –
dans lequel il peut se voir lui même - in which he can see himself
et voir l’amour de sa Dame. - and see the love of his Lady.

The mirror constructions in this work, then, are not mere abstract musical devices, but means of revelatory reflection – the reflection of the self through the transformative gaze of the Other, who is the object of the self's desire.

Mirrors's fragmentary construction reflects its origins as part of a CD-ROM, Prisma, dedicated to Saariaho's work. On this CD-ROM, Mirrors appears not as a fixed composition but as a “game of musical creation” in which the user is permitted to create his or her own version of the piece by dragging and dropping the flute and cello's pre-composed musical fragments as he or she wishes, combining the fragments either freely or in accordance with Saariaho's mirror-based compositional constraints. The version heard tonight is Saariaho's own realization of the piece.