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.