Around 1900, Maurice Ravel joined a group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians referred to as Les Apaches or "hooligans", a term coined by Ricardo Viñes to refer to his band of "artistic outcasts". To pay tribute to his fellow artists, Ravel began composing Miroirs in 1904 and finished it the following year. Movements 3 and 4 were subsequently orchestrated by Ravel, while Movement 5 was orchestrated by Percy Grainger, among others.
Miroirs has five movements, each dedicated to a member of Les Apaches:
- Noctuelles (Night Moths) - Dedicated to Léon-Paul Fargue, Noctuelles is a highly chromatic work, maintaining a dark, nocturnal mood throughout. The middle section is calm with rich, chordal melodies, and the recapitulation takes place a fifth below the first entry.
- Oiseaux tristes (Sad Birds) - Dedicated to Ricardo Viñes, this movement represents a lone bird whistling a sad tune, after which others join in. The rambunctious middle section is offset by a solemn cadenza which brings back the melancholy mood of the beginning.
- Une barque sur l'océan (A boat on the Ocean) - Dedicated to Paul Sordes, the piece recounts a small boat as it sails upon the waves of the ocean. Arpeggiated sections as well as sweeping melodies imitate the flow of ocean currents.
- Alborada del gracioso (The Gracioso's Aubade) - Dedicated to M. D. Calvocoressi, Alborada is a technically challenging piece that incorporates Spanish musical themes into its complicated melodies.
- La vallée des cloches (The Valley of Bells) - Dedicated to Maurice Delage, the piece evokes the sounds of various bells through its use of sonorous harmonies.
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).