Every Picture Tells a Story

12 Scenes for Amplified Harpsichord and Digital Media

One of the favourite ice-breaker questions asked in group workshops is ‘If your house caught fire and you could only save one possession what would it be?’. Many people answer without hesitation, ‘My photo album’. Every picture tells a story, and so much so that infant teachers begin introducing concepts of history by asking children to share photos of themselves as babies, and then to find pictures of parents and grandparents. The photo can say so much, not only about ourselves but about the world we live in aged four, fourteen or forty.
Childhood and memory has been the focus of two works written in 2005 for the Robert Schumann anniversary in July 2006 The White Light of Wonder and The Man with the Golden Key. This short fantasy for solo harpsichord explores some of the same territory as well as involving the addition of other media.

Every Picture Tells a Story brings together a sequence of scenes that take their inspiration from a personal collection of photos, paintings, children’s drawings, and imagined images inspired initially by a chapter from G.K.Chesterton’s Autobiography.

Guide to Performance

The work is designed for a two-manual harpsichord. No manual indications or registration markings appear on the score leaving the player free to devise the most appropriate scheme to suit interpretation and conditions of performance. The tempo markings are a guide, no more. There is an expectation that the performer will treat chordal passages with or without arpeggiation as appropriate. Where passages in the right hand are grouped with an acciaccatura slash they are to be performed freely, and if possible, quite independently from the music of the left hand.

The digital media component comprises a series of 12 visual scenes prepared as Flash media. These scenes are triggered by the soloist (or an assistant) with a single keystroke from a laptop computer keyboard. A scene changes at each double bar in the score. The visual material presents a living room wall upon which a series of photos, paintings, drawings and animations appear (and disappear). Ideally this ‘wall’ should be projected on to a screen behind the soloist.

As for the amplification, treatment and projection of the harpsichord sound, the only preference is for a tight stereo presentation rather than a complex diffusion; the sound should appear at all times to come from the harpsichord! The scenic nature of the piece offers many lively opportunities for the application of digital effects and timbral equalisation provided the space, equipment and/or performance context are appropriate. In this work the harpsichord is considered as an intimate but (possibly) extended instrument performing in an imaginary home setting. Any sonic or visual support to this notion is welcomed.


Score [pdf]

Reference Recording [MP3]