Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

For anybody who knows the harp well? Are these lines playable of a harp? (Ignore the bar numbers. They don't apply here. Also, I don't know how to designate a repeated line like this)

In case you're curious, here is the piece it comes from. (PDF attached)

Views: 127


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

No, I get all that. So, on sitting down to a piece written in E, the harpist would probably set her C, D, F and G on sharp, although if (s)he left, say, the C pedal on natural, (s)he would be paying in E with an E dim 6th chord. I see that a flatted pedal note is also an option. 

OK, you got it. I think. :-P

Yes, you can have flat, natural, or sharp.  Though, according to the article you linked, harpists apparently prefer flat keys over sharp keys. Not sure I fully understand why, but nonetheless.

Where the whole enharmonic thing comes into play is where certain notes can be spelled multiple ways, e.g., C and B#, C# and Db, etc.. So you can set the pedals to have both C# and Db, and the harpist will be able to play the same note on two different strings. Seems redundant, but apparently it sounds better if you're doing tremolos, or if you want a glissando to skip certain notes of the scale, or to strengthen certain notes in a loud chord. (The caveat, of course, being that you won't be able to use the C and D strings for anything else until you change the pedals again.)

Harpists (sometimes) prefer flats because that's the setting in which the tone and tuning is purest, before it has been wound round the peg/gear to make it natural or sharp. It's more of a mechanical preference than musical. A rough approximation is the open string of a guitar vs using a capo on 1st and 2nd frets (not that this comparison addresses the different nature of the instruments). But don't think you should avoid naturals or sharps in any way, the harp is engineered to use them :)

As long as you write with harp's natural restrictions in mind, a good harpist will probably make sense of or correct without a problem. Pedal switching is a second nature as the playing itself. Olivia advised me not to be scared of accidentals!

Harp writing was pretty wtf when I first tried it but I quickly grasped the essentials. Write within the instrument's zone of expertise, don't treat it as a piano, and write in the initial pedal settings/changes.

(There's specific pedal notation you can use, but if you don't have it then writing the initial 7 notes then the subsequent changes as they happen is sufficient.)

you could always use 2 harps and dovetail where you can. Each harp can then have its own tuning, massively expanding the harmonic capability. Stravinsky uses 3 harps in the Firebird, which I can hear in your piece Art.

Try Prokofiev's Ode to The End Of War with 8 harps, Mike. Just as a matter of practicality, would it make sense to write a piece that required instrument configurations that would be hard to put together? For that matter, how much should the composer be thinking about business concerns?

I often worry about whether I'm asking more of an orchestra than would be practical.  Somebody of Stravinsky's stature can get away with that.

I'm coming to realize just how versatile an instrument the harp is, Dave.  I'm eager to hear what Olivia has to say about this passage.

That's not exactly what I was getting at, although yes. If a piece was actually commissioned by somebody or some organization who was willing to assemble, say, 8 harps for a performance, then the composer could be confident that his piece would be performed at least once. "What the orchestra was capable of". Well, an orchestra is capable of putting any instrumental combination together that it is willing to pay union wages for and who are available for a single performance. 

Gustav Holst's The Planets uses a choir in only the last movement. Orchestras usually call on local college choirs for this who are willing to do it for free. Holst was a pretty high-profile composer, but I doubt the piece would have gotten a lot of performances (with the last movement) without free labor.

Reply to Discussion


© 2017   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service