Meg Alexander
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harpsichord decoration for Middlesex School

Notes on the lid decoration

Thinking about a design for the lid decoration of a musical instrument that would live in the Rachel Carson Music and Campus Center at Middlesex School in Concord, MA, my thoughts turned naturally to the sea. Waves, rhythm, interval, endless combinations of pattern—the ocean and music have these in common. I wanted to offer musical audiences and musicians something to look at that was complex, abstract, and engaging—a complement to the music they were experiencing.

The image of the ocean that I used as a source came from a photograph I took in Newport, Rhode Island, which became the inspiration for my senior year degree project at the Rhode Island School of Design. The project was a book of diagrams depicting how an ‘ideal’ simple wind wave is created out at sea in a chaotic, churning mass and then travels to shore where it eventually breaks as a single wave.

Later, in the early 1990’s, I stumbled across Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us and was mesmerized. I’ve read it several times over the years, finding Carson’s clear presentation of complex scientific information coupled with her poetic sensibility and her love of nature sublime.

The lid drawing is made with India ink diluted with water, applied with a brush directly to the white milk paint base, and then sealed with a durable top coat. We made decisions about how to treat the rest of the instrument in terms of color and finish with an eye toward ‘framing’ the lid.