For Alto Saxophone and Piano

(20109) 5 minutes

Commissioned by Jonathan Radford and the Royal Overseas League, to be premiered at the Brighton Festival, 20th May 2019 by Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp.

Programme note

Algernon is loosely inspired by both Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and The Voices Within, a popular science book by Charles Fernyhough about 'the history and science of how we talk to ourselves'. I was fascinated by Fernyhough's description of the development of inner speech from infancy to young adulthood, from social dialogue with others, through private speech (talking to oneself), to inner speech and inner dialogic speech (where we are able to have complex discussions and debates with ourselves without uttering an audible word). The case studies and scientific research detailed in the book gave me many ideas for the melodic and motivic material of this five minute work for alto saxophone and piano. 

At the time of writing I had just reread Keyes' science-fiction classic, in which Algernon, a laboratory mouse, undergoes surgery to dramatically increase his intelligence (before Charlie Gordon, the first human involved in the experiment, undergoes the same operation). The arc of the novel (where both man and mouse become geniuses, before their heightened intelligence deteriorates) influences the structural and emotional shape of this piece.

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2019

Performance history (post-premiere)

13th November 2019 - Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp at the 1901 Club, Waterloo, London UK

20th May 2019 - Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp at the Brighton Festival, UK

9th July 2019 - Jonathan Radford and Kaoli Ono at the Deal Festival, UK 

13th July - Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp at the Buxton Festival, UK

30th July - Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp at the Lake District Summer Festival, UK


Watch a video about Algernon, Cheryl's piece for saxophonist Jonathan Radford.