for solo harpsichord and optional live electronics

2013; open duration, ca. 5-30 minutes

Faythe Vollrath performs Retouchage and other works on her solo recital. Skip ahead to 56:30 for Retouchage.

Retouchage is faux-French for, basically, "alteration," like taking in the waist of a pair of pants. (The real word is retouches, so "retouchage" is more like the state of altering something.) Tami Morse asked me to write her a piece based in some way on Frescobaldi's seventh toccata from his second book of toccatas, and to be played beside it. (The word "Retouchage" derives from the same Latin root as toccata.) I decided to deconstruct Frescobaldi's piece and reconstruct it in some sort of a 21st century way. The score combines direct quotations from Frescobaldi with passages derived either from Frescobaldi's harmonic and melodic material, and other "Baroque-like" phrases, all altered and sewn back together to construct a new garment that is, nevertheless, in some deep way, still fundamentally the same.

Baroque musicians are used to making stuff up on the fly. My piece requires similar skills, but to an extreme: The harpsichordist puts the altered passages in order according to a couple of loose rules and her or his mood.

Retouchage was commissioned by Tami Morse with support from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and is dedicated to Tami.

Retouchage also exists in a version appropriate for students of most levels, called Retouchage-B.


If you are interested in a score and parts, and the materials to run the optional electronics, for Retouchage, please contact Nissim.


  • West Coast premiere of the acoustic version by Faythe Vollrath on November 15, 2014 as part of Sacramento State University's Festival of New American Music.
  • World premiered by Tami Morse of the acoustic version on May 17, 18, & 19, 2013 at The Baroque Room in St. Paul, MN.
  • "Pre-premiered" in the electronic version by Alissa Duryee on January 29, 2013 at La Courneuve Conservatory.
Contact Nissim Schaul