= Gifts from the Pavement – Nigel Morgan

Gifts from the Pavement

32 miniatures for a keyboard instrument (with optional ensemble)

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Gifts from the Pavement is the title given to a collection of photographs and collagraph prints created by the artist Alice Fox. The music was originally composed for a slide-show presentation on a smart phone ‘app’ designed by Phil Legard for the Saltaire Arts Trail 2013, a development project supported by Arts Council England.

The idea of such ‘gifts’ has its origins in a book of woodcut prints by the Japanese 18C artist Utamaro titled Gifts from the Ebb Tide. In this book the artist’s exquisite prints of seashore stones and shells are accompanied with poetry commissioned from a group of poets whom Utamaro invited to spend the day with him at the seaside. In 2010 Nigel Morgan and Alice Fox were inspired to create their own ‘Gifts from the Ebb Tide’ in a sequence of photographs with poetry and music following a visit to Runswick Bay in North Yorkshire, possibly one of the best beachcombing locations in the UK.

In 2013 Alice Fox decided to ‘beach comb’ the streets of a location near her home, the heritage village of Saltaire in West Yorkshire. Her collection of objects and photographs has come together in three forms: a  gallery exhibition, on a smart phone ‘app’, and in a published book. Nigel Morgan’s music, whilst commissioned for the ‘app’, extends into both a concert piece and DVD recording. It was composed for the award-winning jazz and improvising pianist Matt Robinson. This is the musician for whom Nigel has already created two substantial collections of keyboard miniatures: Fifteen Images and Signature Moments.

There are 32 miniatures in this collection, each lasting around 20 seconds. Each miniature is linked to one of the Alice Fox’s photographs taken from her exhibition book Gifts from the Pavement.
In the first instance the player becomes acquainted with the music in the published order playing from a PDF of this score. Later, having downloaded the software version of the score for a laptop or tablet computer’s visual display, the player may arranged the miniatures in any order, the order being entered on a playlist and its progress triggered by a foot pedal to avoid removing the hands from the keyboard.
Musical instructions are kept to a minimum throughout and the player is invited to develop the work from its twenty-second per miniature format towards a performance lasting about 30 minutes. Not only can the structure of the miniatures be arranged in open form, but also the internal organization of each miniature’s music. Thus, each bar of music might be considered as an independent musical object. This means that the player may extend each miniature through repetition, variation and free improvisation.

Like Fifteen Images the focus of this work is novel tonalities, harmonic rhythm and rhythmic articulation. The final bar of each miniature is an abstract of one of twelve tonalities devised algorithmically for the work. This is not sounded out but may provide the source of any additional melodic material, which could be played by an additional solo instrument or be merged into the improvised material devised by the keyboard player. Unlike Fifteen Images and Signature Moments, time signatures are in evidence providing a trigger for the addition of loops, riffs and grooves  for  the optional bass and jazz percussion. Dynamics are ad lib and the tempo, articulation and expressive markings should be a guide, no more.

The preferred instrument for Gifts from the Pavement is the Fender Rhodes electric piano, an instrument that features in many of the composer’s ensemble works, notably Conversations in Colour and Si x Concertos.

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Screens from the Saltaire Arts Trail 2013 and Gifts from the Pavement app.

Gifts from the Pavement


‘No painting is possible without poetry’
Po Kin Yi (9th C)
Eyes in the feet
Wherever, whenever,
Pocketed, brought home,
Shaped under tea’s chemistry
Left on paper sketchbook thin
Enough to register on both sides
Where the roller has marked,
Capriciously, a backdrop
Always different, pavement grey,
Mottled, complex as storm clouds
on a winter sky. Then, the stitch.
Marks of a bird’s foot
Perfectly pricked
On the footpath’s mud,
We crouched close to view
In the last light of this fading year.



Score [pdf]

Saltaire Arts Trail 2013 App [iPhone] [Android]

Active Notation Software [in development]