Harpist Danielle Kuntz is working to demystify her instrument for composers with a free virtual harp writing workshop for composers April 27–29, 2021, at 2 p.m. EST. The workshop aims to help composers become confident in their harp writing and gain a deeper understanding of the nuances of the instrument. Though the workshop is geared towards composers, “harpists may find it useful as well,” Kuntz says. We caught up with Kuntz to learn more about the upcoming event.
What inspired this event?
My goal is to make the harp a more accessible instrument to composers. Most composers are aware of the chromatic challenges of the harp—the pedals and levers—but few understand how to write music that “fits the hands.” Through this workshop, I want to raise awareness about these other challenges and give composers some tools to start with.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started working with composers?
I fell into these collaborations quite by accident. During undergrad at the University of North Texas, most of my friends were composers and they started asking me questions about the harp. I realized there wasn’t much information easily available to them. Since I was also working on a theory degree, I took many of the same instrumentation and composition classes they were in and realized the harp instruction was quite minimal. Only a few of the other harpists in my department were interested in new music, so I decided to make that my niche, joined the new music ensemble, and regularly premiered new compositions in the composition department concert series.
What do believe are the biggest challenges composers face when writing for the harp and how do you help them combat these challenges?
The biggest challenge is understanding the layers that go into playing the harp and how to interpret the difficulty of a passage based on the context. For instance, quick pedal changes might be possible in one piece, but not in another.
How would you encourage harpists to help their composer colleagues when writing for the instrument?
Know the available resources for harp writing and help point composers in the right direction. Also, know that composers are generally very open to feedback. If a score they give you doesn’t work on the harp, tell them and give them suggestions. They won’t be offended. In fact, they are usually very grateful.
Your workshop is a three day event. Are there different themes for each day?
Yes—we’ll be discussing the challenges of writing for the harp, how to assess the difficulty of music, and how harp writing differs from the piano.
How do people sign up?
You can register at www.daniellekuntz.com/freeworkshop. The live sessions will be at 2 p.m. EST and will last around 30 minutes with time for questions afterward. Re-plays will be available, if you can’t join live!
Anything else you’d like us to know?
If you’re a harpist, you are absolutely welcome to join! Many of us write or arrange for the harp and it’s helpful to know how to articulate the rules and guidelines that we subconsciously understand. You’re also welcome to join the conversation in my harp notation Facebook group!
To learn more about Kuntz and keep up to date with all of her workshops, visit her website.