The Magpie Index

Single-screen high-definition video installation, 68 mins, 2010 (excerpt)

Installation at Matt's Gallery, London, Jan-Feb 2012

The Magpie Index is a single-screen high-definition video focusing on legendary singer-songwriter Roy Harper.

In The Magpie Index Roy Harper delivers a series of monologues to camera. Each section addresses a different aspect of his work, his philosophy and history, covering the counter culture; religion and superstition; ornithology; nature and the environment; political engagement and the end of politics as well as Harper's experiences in the music world and the importance of changing light bulbs.

Roy Harper released his first record, 'Sophisticated Beggar' in 1966 and was revered by contemporaries such as Led Zeppelin for the uncompromising way he followed the dictates of his conscience rather than the prerogatives of the music business, ('Hats off to Harper' on Led Zeppelin III acknowledged this). He was resident at the legendary Les Cousins Folk club in Soho in the early sixties and became a staple of Free Festivals in the late sixties and seventies. He worked with musicians such as Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour, Keith Moon, and Kate Bush, who describes him as 'one of the greatest of English song writers'. Recently Joanna Newson invited him to play the Albert Hall with her as his work was formative on her record 'Ys'.

His work and approaches are resolutely independent and informed by a strong personal and ethical vision. He has used his songs and writings to propose alternative histories of culture, launch attacks on establishment positions and to critique social, political and religious operations.

The Magpie Index explores the ways that a fierce personal vision has developed and how this might have shaped the belief systems of a cultural movement. The work moves from the biographical into the social and cultural spheres to present this individual voice in ways that allude to the traditions of the radical non-conformist, the visionary and the outsider.

Review in Sight and Sound