We have a fair idea, thanks to Carroll and Tenniel, of what Looking Glass flowers and insects looked like, but we have to discover Looking Glass music for ourselves; this piece of music was my attempt to hear it.
I had been playing with ideas about multiplying strands of music, creating multiple reflections of sound in time and space. All my works, from Flights (1967) onwards, used this conceit one way or another; so when in 1970, Michael Hall suggested I compose a work for Phillip Jone’s Brass Quintet for an Invitation Concert, it was an obvious opportunity to use the BBC’s resources to take reflections a step further and to expand this layering by multi-tracking: that is, by making several recordings of the same or similar music, drifting in and out of synchronisation. This simple interaction produces the strange effects of phasing sounds; it can create beautiful perspectives and magical spaces.
So multi-tracking became a feature of Looking Glass Music as I heard it, but it was just the anchor to many other reflections the piece explores: mirroring through heterophony, mirroring movements across time, mirroring through burlesquing, mirroring through transcendence; they all have a place in this looking glass world.
The work was commissioned by the BBC and dedicated to the Phillip Jones Brass Quintet, who entered so fully into the spirit of the work and gave the first performance in London, 1971.