HomeInterpreting the Materials of a Transmedia Storyworld: Word-Music-Image in Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)

Interpreting the Materials of a Transmedia Storyworld: Word-Music-Image in Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)

This digital curation exhibit is discussed in the forthcoming publication: Lori Burns and Laura McLaren, “Interpreting the Materials of a Transmedia Storyworld: Word-Music-Image in Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015),” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Music Production, edited by Simon Zagorski-Thomas and Andrew Bourbon.


  • Lori Burns
  • Laura McLaren

Welcome to this interpretive curation of Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase.  Released in 2015, Wilson designed a transmedia storyworld that emerges through the songs of the album in relation to a limited edition hardcover book, a blog  (www.handcannoterase.com, no longer available) and teaser video that were released the month before the album release, and official videos for four of the tracks.

Wilson's album was inspired by the true life story of a woman, Joyce Carol Vincent, who died in a London apartment, but whose body was not found for three years; her story was captured in the drama-documentary film, Dreams of a Life (2011).

To interpret the intersecting network of artistic materials of Hand. Cannot. Erase., the spectator-analyst is challenged to understand the dialogue between musical production and the extra-musical materials, to absorb the multimodal discourse of the recorded tracks and music videos, to discover the ways in which individual texts are connected in an intermedia relationship to other texts in the network, and to grasp the cohesive narrative that emerges in and through the transmedia platform. As the reader will discover, our analysis is presented as a curation of Wilson’s artistic work, thus we have used these digital content management tools (Omeka and Storymap) to assemble the materials in an interpretive style.

To summarize the story that emerges in the H.C.E. narrative, the female subject (“H”) experiences isolating circumstances in an urban setting while her memories transport her to other places and times. Her ideas and perspectives are conveyed not only through the song lyrics, but also the writings of her personal blog, scrapbook, photos, and artifacts. The blog was putatively written over a 7-year timeline (2008-2015), accounting for her present situation, in which she copes with alienation and detachment, but featuring flashbacks to past experiences and relationships. H is an artist who resists emotional attachment and is both drawn to and repelled by the narcissism of social media. In the course of the narrative, her relationships are shown to be disrupted as her sister (“J”) and cat  (“Laika”) both “disappear,” she is detached from her brother, and she feels distrust of the “visitors” who try to help her. As H experiences deeper and deeper isolation and a loss of reality, she contemplates her own disappearance.

The following table charts the release history of the album:

1 January 2015

Hand. Cannot. Erase. Teaser video


1 January 2015

Blog goes live


Handcannoterase.com (no longer available)

4 February 2015

“Perfect Life” music video

Director: Youssef Nassar
Assistant Director: Mansour Zebian
Cinematographer: Youssef Nassar
Production Manager: Zeina Daoud
Steady Operator: Fares Korbani
Wardrobe: Vivian Marquez
Editor: Youssef Nassar
Colorist: Jad Beyrouthy - Pandora
Cast - Stephanie Nassar - Julia Maalouf

15 February 2015

Hand. Cannot. Erase. Deluxe Edition Reveal video


27 February 2015

CD and Vinyl release

Vinyl - KSCOPE875
Artwork, Concept By – Steven Wilson
Design – Carl Glover
Engineer – Laurence Anslow, Steve Orchard
Illustration – Hajo Mueller
Photography By – Lasse Hoile

27 February 2015

Deluxe Edition release

Artwork By [Concept And Text By] – Steven Wilson
Authoring – Ray Shulman
Design – Carl Glover
Engineer – Laurence Anslow, Steve Orchard
Engineer [Ninet's Vocals] – Daniel Anglister, Joseph E-Shine
Illustration – Hajo Mueller
Performer [Demos Made By] – Steven Wilson (tracks: CD2-1 to CD2-8)
Photography By – Lasse Hoile
Written By, Producer, Mixed By – Steven Wilson

12 March 2015

H.C.E. Tour Begins

Cambridge, UK Corn Exchange

29 October 2015

“Routine” music video

Director: Jess Cope
Tom Kaye: Writer/Producer
Alison Cross: Art Director/Prop Maker
Adam Oehlers: Concept Artist

16 May 2016

“Hand Cannot Erase” live film for HCE shows

Director/Editor: Lasse Hoile
Feat: Carrie Grr. [Karolina Grzybowska]

28 October 2016

“Happy Returns” music video
(released on the Kscope youTube channel)

Director: Youssef Nassar
Feat: Karolina "Carrie" Grzybowska

2 December 2016

H.C.E. Tour ends

Pune, India, NH7 Bacardi Weekender



Album's musical timeline

Album's narrative timeline

"Routine" Timeline


We are pleased to acknowledge the design input of Jada Watson and Sarah Simpkin of the University of Ottawa.

Special thanks to James Law, technologist of the School of Music at uOttawa.