A mosaic of tiny pages

29th May 2009 | Concerts, Daily Life, Florestan Trio | 3 comments

I’ve been putting together a special performing score of my Haydn piano concerto for the Florestan Festival. I’m going to be directing the performance ‘from the keyboard’, and I don’t want to have too many pages to turn. There’s so much else going on in the festival – both musical and non-musical – that I’ve decided not to try and memorise the orchestral score as well as the solo part. But if I use my usual piano part, which has a great many pages, someone will have to sit beside me and turn the pages. I could ask someone to do that, but I’d like to try and have an uncluttered stage.

I’ve been to the art materials shop and bought several sheets of large, stiff art paper and a tube of paper glue. I’ve photocopied every page of the Haydn score and reduced it to a quarter of its size. I now have a pile of tiny pages from which I’ll create a mosaic, sticking 12 little pages on each sheet of art paper. I could have made the pages tinier, but I wouldn’t be able to read them. I’m trying to lay them out cleverly so that the few page turns come at moments when I’m not playing.

Roll on, e-book readers for piano music! Maybe they do exist; I’m not gadget-minded, so I may well be ignorant of something that’s already there. But I’ve never heard of a device which can be placed on the music desk of the piano and used to perform from. Where would it be plugged in, and if it wasn’t, what would happen if the batteries failed during a concert? How would the pages be turned if the pianist’s hands are occupied with playing the notes? Obviously you can’t shout, ‘Turn!’ into a little microphone. Friends have suggested that the tempo of the music could be somehow pre-set into the e-reader, so that the pages scroll past at a relevant speed. But anyone familiar with printed music will know that that’s not going to work. Depending on the density of notes on any given page, one printed page may pass more quickly than another in performance. The scrolling tempo of the pages would somehow have to be linked to the speed of real-time performance, so that if there is some delay, you don’t find that the e-score has moved imperturbably on to page 42 when you’re still trying to play page 36.


  1. Gretchen Saathoff

    Susan, this is a fascinating topic. Chris O’Riley uses a computer program, w/a laptop sitting on the piano. I think it’s a program I found online, called “Air Turn,” where the music is scanned into your computer, & there’s an attachment used for turning pages. You can touch the computer screen, or a bar that sits on the side of the music rack, or a foot pedal. The pedal is divided like a computer mouse, so when you depress the left side, the page turns back (for repeats!). The package is not terribly expensive. Chris Foley’s blog has a post describing this, video included: http://collaborativepiano.blogspot.com/2008/12/air-turn-launches-are-human-page.html

    There is also a computer program that soloists use to practice concerti w/the orchestra part. The orchestra is recorded. The computer program operates by an internal metronome, so if you slow down to work on something and haven’t yet played beat 3, for example, the orchestra does not go on until you get there.

    I’d love to see the music scroll from right to left at whatever speed I’m playing. Page turns are the worst!

    • Susan Tomes

      Many thanks, Gretchen, for telling me about this – and thank you to Soundtrk as well. AirTurn sounds wonderful. I balked slightly at the idea of scanning my music into a computer first …. but actually it’s not worse than traipsing out to photocopy lots of pages etc. in time, no doubt, e-libraries of music will allow us download our chosen scores straight into AirTurn. I will investigate happily!

      Wouldn’t it be fabulous not to have to go on tour with several kilos of piano music – whole volumes of Beethoven and Schubert!

  2. soundtrk

    a tablet PC and AirTurn?


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