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Hello my composer friends!

About a year ago, I initiated The Harp Legacy Project after years of coping with harp scores that were either just very awkward or impossible to perform.  My mission is to assist composers in turning their harp pieces into viable and accessible works.  Currently on my website is a growing list of ":before and after" pages that illustrate the results of my work and which are also tutorial for those who wish to venture forth into this domain.  Of all the instruments, I believe the harp to be amongst the least understood by composers even after they read manuals.  The fact that composers continue to write nightmarish harp scores is increasingly prompting harpists to resort to rewriting much of their music, compose new manuals, make the subject a major topic at conventions and even write books for harpists instructing them how to edit the scores that they receive.  Below are two responses from other harpists pertaining to this topic:

Elizabeth Volpé-BlighYes! There is a great book on this subject called The Harp In The Orchestra by Beatrice Schroeder Rose. I highly recommend it. It is a great reference book for teaching students to edit poorly-written parts. Conductors are generally aware of this problem and are delighted to have a harpist who is able to play their edited part well than to have someone thrashing through a thicket of impossible jumps, pedal changes, ten-note chords, etc.

My name is Myra Kovary. I am a free-lance harpist based in Ithaca, NY and have been gigging for over 30 years. For several years now, Dana Wilson, a composer and faculty member at Ithaca College, and I have been working on writing a manual for composers about writing for the harp. The text is almost finished and I would still like to add graphics and musical examples. I have run the text by several harpists (including Ruth and Sonja Inglefield and Ruth Papalia) and several composers and am getting very positive feedback about it. Just recently, I googled "composing for the harp" and came across your work. Our manual actually is written in the vein of what is posted on your website but is more extensive. I am at the point where I am thinking about how to get the word out to composers and thinking about where to post our article on the web. I'm pondering how to reach composers and not only harpists. It would be interesting to post it in such a way that composers could ask questions and make comments and that harpists could also engage in the discussion -- but I wouldn't want the harpists to give lousy advice so I'd have to find a way to maintain editorial control somehow. My goal is to develop a valuable resource for composers so we stop getting these horribly written parts!

I am currently editing Progeny of Memory, a 42 minute piece for cello and harp, by Matthew H. Fields.  For those of you who are interested in having your harp scores examined, I am offering free assessments of the issues I find after my examinations.  Just send a pdf, I will comment on your score and assess the fees required for me to work with you.  drshirley472@comcast.net  Thank you for your interest!



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Thanks for the pointer to your web site. My first symphonic suite includes a harp. When composing it, the more I read about the harp, the more I understood that my chances of writing properly for the harp were pretty low. In the end, I used the harp mostly in its "cliche" form where an arpeggio indicates a transition in the piece. The entire suite is diatonic, so I figured I couldn't screw up the pedal changes (since there aren't any).

It harp works nicely for the piece, but, as a harpist friend pointed out, it's hard to get a harpist motivated to show up when they only have 40 seconds of music to play :-)

Anyway, I bookmarked your site should I ever get brave enough to tackle the harp again!

Thank you Antonio for you response. I would be most happy to work with you on a harp score therefore I urge you to venture forth.  On my website, you will find some before and after pages that should be helpful, however, I think that you would find "one on one" contact with me the most effective way to proceed.   I am on a mission to assist composers - this is not a job for me but rather a passion. I'm attaching information pertaining to my project, a sample page with my edit markings (to initiate discussion), and a before and after page from an edited opera score entitled The Dream Maker by Domenic Guastaferro,  Hope these documents help!  www.theharplegacyproject.com

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Thank you, Shirley. Right now, composing is a hobby for me, not a profession. Should it ever become a source of income, I would consider your fee a useful investment. I know enough to understand the value of what you are offering, and I think it's great  that you are pursuing this. Personally, I think a lot of composers might benefit from having the same kind of passionate editing for every instrument.

AMEN but this work is especially urgently needed for harp notation.  Too often, composers confuse piano notation with harp notation and although there are some similarities, there are MAJOR differences.

Hi Shirley, Happy New Year!

 

This is the beginning of a semi-abandoned composition of mine (just the theme).

I would be grateful if you could have a look and let me know if there is something unplayable or overtly difficult for the harp in it? The pedaling is inserted automatically by a Sibelius plug in that I've got.

Cheers.

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I greatly appreciate everything that Shirley  (Shirley Meyer Blankenship)  has to say about music, and about harp music in particular.

People who have not heard her work would find supreme delight in what she has done, if they have not heard it yet.  (Or even if they have, they could listen again).

I have been very impressed.  Here work and her comments, hopefully, will inspire us to make greater and more effective use of the harp in our own compositions.  

I used the Turkish saz in a recent composition.  Perhaps I should have used the harp, in a Middle Eastern tuning, instead.   

Hello Socrates!

I have looked at your composition and can tell you that 1) it is not difficult and 2) it is mostly playable. Essentially you have written a piece more idiomatic for the piano but workable for the harp. On the piano, the bass dotted quarter notes can be sustained by the pedal whereas on the harp, the string will be plucked and sound until it stops vibrating however long that is. The main problem with your piece involves "placing issues" easier to explain via skype, while we both are looking at the score, rather than in the abstract. That being said, at the end of measure one, there is an E on the last note in the left hand. Therefore, the next E in the right hand can't be placed until the left hand is off the string. This type of formulation is awkward and happens quite a number of times. Unlike pianists who can strike keys from the air, a harpist must place fingers on the strings before plucking. The last beat of bar 7, right hand, is also difficult due to placing. It is possible only to place 4 fingers at once - ideally, to gracefully play the 3rd beat going to the 1st beat of the next bar, it would be helpful to have 6 fingers. Also, I would have some notational suggestions, i.e., not using the quarter notes on the beats in the left hand in bar 6 since they are superfluous. If you are interested in pursuing this, my email address is: drshirleydma@gmail.com

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Good to see your name again!  On my website, I now have 162 recordings dating back to 1953.  They include mostly live performances of my work as a harpist, pianist, violinist, singer and composer and encompass a variety of styles as well as experimental music.  http://www.theharplegacyproject.com/shirley/recordings.html

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT!



O. Olmnilnlolm said:

I greatly appreciate everything that Shirley  (Shirley Meyer Blankenship)  has to say about music, and about harp music in particular.

People who have not heard her work would find supreme delight in what she has done, if they have not heard it yet.  (Or even if they have, they could listen again).

I have been very impressed.  Here work and her comments, hopefully, will inspire us to make greater and more effective use of the harp in our own compositions.  

I used the Turkish saz in a recent composition.  Perhaps I should have used the harp, in a Middle Eastern tuning, instead.   

Thank you very much Shirley for taking the time and for your help and suggestions!

I feel already that I understand the harp (from the harpists point of you) a little better (just a tiny bit :-) ).

I will try to amend my score/pdf taking into account all your suggestions tonight and I'll see what I make and contac you again.

Thanks for providing your email.


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Socrates Arvanitakis said:

Thank you very much Shirley for taking the time and for your help and suggestions!

I feel already that I understand the harp (from the harpists point of you) a little better (just a tiny bit :-) ).

I will try to amend my score/pdf taking into account all your suggestions tonight and I'll see what I make and contac you again.

Thanks for providing your email.

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Hello Shirley,

Please consider making a stop at the Forum every once in a while.  It's nice to hear from you and your music.

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