Family Portrait
Malcolm Fox
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Family Portrait
Mobile for Flute, Ensemble and Solo Photographer

Performing Materials:
World Premiere:
The Cockpit Theatre, London 1971
Music Plus Ensemble
Other Performances:
Elder Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide 1993
Elder New Music Ensemble



Family Portrait is a free scored composition with sets of material for each player in the ensemble and detailed instructions on how to interact. It was originally composed for the Music Plus Ensemble at The Cockpit Theatre in London in 1971 when it was under the directorship of Grahame Dudley. A concert specially staged for an American flautist included a programme of compositions by a range of composers (including Oliver Knussen and Simon Bainbridge) and Fox's Family Portrait was one of them.

The composition contains ten motives of a few notes each, plus a short Promenade section. The ensemble remains on stage whilst the flautist selects a member of the audience whose character seems to suit one of the ten motives. The flautist walks to the person in question and plays the chosen motive for him/her for a suitable length of time before moving on to someone else. Each motive acts as a trigger for the ensemble members to begin improvising, adapting the motives from the flautist's impression of the chosen person to their own, and integrating this fusion into the musical ensemble as a whole.

In the course of this development, the identity of the motives may completely dissolve and fuse into an integrated musical whole evolved by the ensemble. The Promenade section is to be adapted to the character of the previous person, and is to be played only when in transit from one member of the sudience to another.

During the performance, a photographer takes photographs of the flautist and whomever he/she is performing to at the time, and these can be attached to the score in the space provided, for the person to keep after the performance. The photographer's role should be approached "theatrically" according to the composer's notes.

Malcolm Fox revised Family Portrait in 1993 for a performance by the Elder New Music Ensemble in Adelaide, and a section of their performance is included here with the kind permission of ABC and Grahame Dudley.