Music Composers Unite!
In this solo piece for harp I chose an unusual style for harp: rock + experimental rhythm and atonality. When you work with harp you need to remember that harp has only 7 notes in an octave and it can be flat, normal or sharp. Sometimes I have many pedal changes in one measure, but I try to make them easier to play by putting changes of the same pedal close.
In this track I use muting a lot, because the style requires it. Especially muting in low register is difficult.
Track starts with minimalism: ostinato in bass using 3 notes in Em. Then a more rhythmically and harmonically varied part is introduced in right hand: F#m with chromatic. Here I use consonant and dissonant (2nds, 4ths, 7ths) intervals.
Starting with measure 113 bass ostinato gradually rises two octaves up.
You will find both live and virtual recordings here.
For virtual recording I used a Spitfire Skaila Kanga Harp library. It seems to be one of the best harp libraries today with 3 mics and very spatial sound compared with the other libraries. For some tracks it can be unwanted, but for solo harp it seems very appropriate.
I randomized midi imported from Sibelius into Reaper: 17% velocity in fast repeating notes. 10% position for all notes + manual corrections where this randomization spoiled rhythm (about 5 places).
No equalization used. Limiting.
Thanks a lot to Nina Kupriyanova for recording this piece! Nina won multiple international contests in France, Austria, Wales and Russia.
I think, most important is that Nina made a lot of corrections in my score to make it more playable and readable for a harpist. Actually, the piece is difficult for performance because of the following qualities, which we optimized during corrections:
1. No time to rest.
2. Very independent rhythms in left and right hands.
3. There are some places with lots of pedal changes.
4. More than one simultaneous note per hand maked playing difficult.
5. A lot of bass muting.
6. Rock rhythm is not what harpists are used to.
We recorded piece is a noisy music college in Moscow. Thanks to close microphone position we got not so much noise in the recording. I used AKG C214 large diaphragm condenser microphone with Zoom H5 portable studio. You can see in the backstage video below, that microphone was positioned to the right in front of the harp. Microphone was aimed at short strings and performer's hands. No effects, reverb, compression or limiting was used (because I had to much noise).
Audio and video were recorded separately and later were synced in Adobe Premiere. Two cameras were used as you can see in backstage video below:
- Canon 650d with EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS (1920x1080 25fps)
- Samsung S6 phone (1920x1080 60fps) - later was converted to 25fps by deleting excessive frames
You can also see a slow motion video below, created by speeding down 60fps footage to 25fps.
Please see backstage and slow motion videos, and also virtual recordings here: http://arkhipenko.weebly.com/music/music-fantasy-underground
Me and Nina will be glad to hear your comments!
I think this is magnificent, extremely beautiful and inspiring. Superb melodies, harmonies and rhythms.
I would like to say more, but maybe I am too much in awe of the potential of this piece, and its execution here, to comment intelligently at the moment; and I've only heard it once, and just three quarters the way through.
I want to give it several hearings. I appreciated your introductory comments, explaining how the work has been changed, to make it more playable. It makes me wonder how it would sound as you originally conceived it, with two harpists, as in Stockhausen's "Klang Cycle," or the individual piece "Freude")
Perhaps you know it:
Of course, it's harder to do it this way.
One commentator said, something like what you said, about Klang and "Freude."
Modern composers utilize the harp frequently, but while the pedals on a concert harp allow many sorts of non-diatonic scales and strange accidentals to be played, some modern pieces call for impractical pedal manipulations. In 2005 German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen solved this problem in his own way by composing 'Freude' (Joy, 2005) for two harps, 2nd hour in the 'Klang' cycle. In this piece he created opportunities for non-diatonic scales by dividing the piece over two harps. He required Dutch harpists Marianne Smit and Esther Kooi to study daily in excess of 6 months to create an absolute synergy in the 40 minute piece.
Maybe that would be too much to ask of Nina Kupriyanova and any given accompanying harpist. Stockhausen asks them to vocalize in addition to playing, as well.
Regarding your six interesting observations:
1. Rest additions are good, both for practical reasons, and for dramatic purposes.
2. Independent rhythms, VERY independent rhythms should be preserved I think, which is why two harpists might be necessary for the full realization of your original ideas.
3. Pedal changes have been difficult for Stockhausen and other contemporary composers to work around, too. Another reason why two harpists might be a good move.
4. "More than one simultaneous note ... etc." A third reason for two harpists.
5. Bass muting, the same solution.
6. Rock Rhythm. I am not sure I would call what you have here a rock rhythm, though you probably know best. Such rhythms are usually not so complex; most often they are fairly uniform, and therefore, a bit boring. If your rhythms were originally more complex, and simplified for the sake of having the work made more "playable," then I respectfully suggest your eventually going back to the beginning (at some convenient point), and resurrecting the original conceptions, even complexifying them.
As historical time in the music word proceeds (and the facility of solo, ensemble and orchestral performing becomes more sophisticated and improved, world wide), I don't think the composer should be too willing to make concessions to the instrumentalist. Ferneyhough's major solo flute work (Cassandra's Dream Song) was thought unplayable, at first. Now flautists line up in order to find opportunities to perform that work, which is a standard part of the solo flute repertoire. Beethoven couldn't even play some of his own later piano works, which were also thought by many soloists to be unplayable. Other pianists had to be coaxed into playing them. We might consider many similar examples, between the time of Beethoven and Ferneyhough. Never compromise the original idea, just for the sake of "playability." If a flute (or a harp) piece, has to be played upside down, while one sings simultaneously, as Phoebus Apollo commanded, then so be it. Look what happened to Marsyas, when he refused to perform as demanded, in his competition with Apollo. The Muses and the Gods of Music are always in command.
[The Torment of Marsyas (Le Supplice de Marsyas), Louvre Museum, Paris.]
"There are several versions of the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas: according to one account, Marsyas was departing as victor after the first round, when Apollo, said, 'Let us see if you can do what I do now, with your flute.' Apollo, turning his lyre upside down, played the same tune, and sang an accompaniment. This was something that Marsyas could not do with his flute. For his punishment, Marsyas was flayed to death."
Ondib, thank you for your comment! This is an important question if a composition should be corrected to make performance easier (or even possible). I did not consider this a problem in this piece, because most of the changes, that were introduced, contributed little to the final sound. Not all of the problem qualities that I list could be optimized: independed rhythms and no time to rest - actually were not possible to optimize.
On the other hand, after I finished recording this piece, I also decided to create a piece for two harps this year - to overcome the limitations of one harp. Using two harps overcomes some limitations, but adds new problems: composer needs to think about how two harps are synchronized and think about pedal changes in both harps at the same time.
Yes. I understand. Time to rest was absolutely crucial, and those rests actually could improve the piece in some ways, over the original, I am guessing.
And, as Debussy once said,
"Music is the silence between the notes. ... "